One night, Suzie Gibbs took her granddaughter for a ride to feed homeless people. She had set up the special ride with Uplift, a Kansas City-based organization that hauls meals, clothing and supplies to homeless people in the community.
“I said to her, ‘You need to see how the other half lives,’” Gibbs said. “When I saw what they do and how this Uplift organization benefits the homeless, it was just utterly amazing.”
Gibbs then asked her friend Stan Griffin, an Uplift volunteer, to help her coordinate plans to bring the truck to Mission. That was six years ago. The Uplift Truck has been a part of Mission’s annual holiday programs ever since.
Local residents clean out their closets and pack their vehicles full of warm clothes to give to homeless people in the metro area. The Uplift Truck stopped by the Sylvester Powell Jr. Community Center on Thursday morning to collect people’s bags filled with clothes, blankets and warm items.
Gibbs, a longtime Mission community leader, said the Uplift Truck may be Kansas City-based, but it also helps homeless individuals in the Shawnee Mission area and northeast Johnson County.
‘The kindness of the people’
Local volunteers as well as city leaders and members of the Mission Police Department helped people unload their vehicles and pack the Uplift Truck.
“It’s just a great idea to help our folks that are in need and to get them what they need,” said police captain Kirk Lane. “Everybody’s been so generous.”
Each year, roughly 15 to 20 drivers stop by and empty their cars filled with several bags of clothing.
“We usually fill that van up each time it comes out,” Lane said. “It’s a great thing to see the kindness of the people, not only from our city but from outside cities come over to help out. It goes to a good cause.”
The Uplift Truck does fill up every year, but Gibbs said it’s still sometimes difficult to ask people to clean out their closets.
“You don’t need 10 blankets; you don’t need 10 pairs of shoes that you don’t wear,” she said. “You don’t need 10 pairs of gloves, and there are people who do. Help us help those that do need it.”
The journey doesn’t stop with collections. Uplift volunteers have to find people who need the resources — and when you’re trying to find homeless people, that can sometimes present a challenge. But seeing these people in their actual environment — without shelter, shoes and necessities this reporter certainly takes for granted — is what made a difference for Gibbs.
On that truck ride six years ago, for instance, she and her granddaughter, Kelsey, met homeless people who were staying under a bridge. They saw makeshift beds and nightstands and, notably, books.
“You saw that they read books; they’re like you and me,” Gibbs said. “They love to read.”
Mission is also collecting white socks Nov. 30 for the Uplift Truck. Last year, they collected more than 4,000 pairs, Gibbs said.