There's always a way to help homeless people, and one of those opportunities to help someone during the holidays and beyond is about to happen in Fort Smith.
Members of First Missionary Baptist Church will host their Coat, Hat and Glove Drive from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the church, 3110 Kelley Hwy. The event encourages people to donate coats, hats and gloves, said Elysia Shanika Royal, an assistant youth director for First Missionary Baptist Church. Donated items will be given to area individuals and homeless shelters, she said.
"We are hoping for hundreds and hundreds of coats, gloves and hats to be donated," Royal said. "This is our first year to do this, and we're starting this with our new pastor, Jay Forte.
"We would prefer that the coats, hats and the gloves be in good shape," she added. "And we're talking any sizes. We are needing coats, hats and gloves for men, women, boys and girls."
Once the items are donated to the church on Dec. 1, they will be organized and later given to area individuals in need and to area homeless shelters, Royal said.
"We have people who need help and they are on a list," she said. "We will be giving donated items to those people, in addition to giving some of the items to homeless shelters here.
"For anyone who wants to get onto that list to receive a coat, they can call me at (479) 420-9966," Royal added. "They can also call the church at (479) 783-8878 to be placed on the list."
Like Royal, Forte is taking the drive seriously. He called the drive one of the church's latest programs to help members of the community.
"In the latter part of the year, we feed the homeless and provide supplies like toothpaste, deodorant and other things in what we call Bags of Hope," Forte said. "We try to make sure that every child in the Fort Smith area has a coat.
"We feed teachers at the schools, too, and when we were feeding them, we noticed that some of the kids outside were without coats," he added. "We would like to implement a program in each school where there's a clothes closet for kids. Maybe a child forgot his or her coat, and it's cold outside, so there's a coat already there for that child."
According to Royal, about half of the individuals who are homeless in the region are adults, while the other half comprises babies, young children and teenagers.
"There are so many reasons why we see and hear about homeless people," she said. "People are falling down on their luck, and then there's drug addiction in some cases. Many homeless people have children, so we have to take care of those people, especially the children."
Children and teenagers in First Missionary Baptist Church's youth program will be actively involved in the Coat, Hat and Glove Drive, Royal said.
"Oh yes, we put the kids on the front line, so to speak, so they can help out and learn," she said. "We know this helps the kids to become better, more giving adults."
Royal said she and other organizers are hoping to make the drive an annual event.
"We know that the best thing about this is, we will be able to reach out and help the community," she said. "And at the same time, we will teach our kids the importance of giving back."