Photo Courtesy of indycatholic.org
Students lend helping hands downtown
With heads held down but cups held up, those experiencing homelessness take refuge along the streets of downtown Indy. Having to scrape together basic necessities, many cannot help but feel disempowered. Ignored by passersby, these individuals start to fade into the background. Yet, instead of walking wider around those less fortunate, Butler students approach these impoverished people, lending a helping hand and an open heart.
The Butler Catholic Community brings a group of Butler students every last Thursday of the month to participate in Operation Leftover, a program that aids those experiencing homelessness in downtown Indy.
Based out of the Center for Faith and Vocation, the BCC acts as a church here on campus that offers a variety of service and outreach opportunities, such as Operation Leftover, to all Butler students. Operation Leftover, in particular, works to alleviate the distress, both mental and physical, of the impoverished in Indy.
The program gives basic needs like food, water, sleeping bags, underwear and tarps rather than money to homeless individuals.
Operation Leftover volunteers split into groups and walk designated routes through downtown Indianapolis. They approach the homeless individuals they encounter on these routes and offer them help.
This is what makes Operation Leftover unique, for the volunteers come to the homeless individuals wherever they may be at that time.
Kate Holtz, a sophomore student who has been involved in Operation Leftover through BCC, said this was one of the most rewarding aspects of the program.
“They aren’t expecting it, and I think that’s the best part,” Holtz said. “They are grateful, but they are not greedy. We keep trying to give them supplies, but they say, ‘No I have enough, I’m okay.’”
Holtz said some even suggest other people nearby who are in need of the supplies but are not willing to ask for it.
“It makes you realize how good you have it,” Holtz said. “It’s all these Butler kids walking around wearing these giant parkas and shivering, and then you see them, and they are wearing a T-shirt. We give them a jacket, and it’s like Christmas times 10.”
However, the volunteers’ gifts go beyond material possessions. They share their faith and engage in conversation with the impoverished individuals.
Whenever the volunteers meet people on the streets, they ask if they can say a prayer over them that they may be safe and that they may find the help that they need.
“Usually people are very, very willing and even get really into it,” Holtz said.
In addition to prayer, Operation Leftover volunteers offer those experiencing homelessness resources regarding where to find shelter, food and jobs.
After seeing all the leftover food at one of his barbeques, founder and coordinator of Operation Leftover, Andrew Costello, hoped to reduce waste in a way that could benefit everyone. His idea for Operation Leftover was born. Costello provides his card and where to find him to the homeless individuals as well, offering to help those less fortunate in any way he can.
Holtz insists that the simple act of introducing themselves to the homeless individuals and asking for their names means the most, for they are more often than not disrespected.
“The amount that you can see their face light up whenever you address them by name is amazing,” Holtz said. “They aren’t normally treated like people.”
The volunteers approach the homeless individuals on a person-to-person level. Instead of steering clear of these people on the streets, they ask to hear their stories.
“It makes you think so differently,” Holtz said. “You hear their stories, and you realize that it could happen to anybody. It really humbles you.”
Students can contribute to Operation Leftover even if they are unable to participate in distributing supplies downtown.
Skyler Walker, a junior BCC member, talked about regular crochet sessions hosted by the BCC as an on campus opportunity to contribute to Operation Leftover.
“I enjoy gathering with other Butler students and the BCC Director, Emily, to relax and crochet, knowing that our contributions will keep someone in need a little warmer in the winter or even just put a smile on their face when they receive a scarf or hat,” Walker said.
The BCC’s involvement with Operation Leftover encourages students to contribute to something bigger than themselves.
“It’s a nice feeling when you know someone cares about you, and I like to think that even from behind the scenes I can show someone I care by hand-making them a scarf,” Walker said.
Butler students like Holtz and Walker work to provide those less fortunate with the supplies and interaction needed to survive, yet there still remains many more in need of a warm blanket or a listening ear.
BCC’s involvement in Operation Leftover continues, bringing Butler’s Community of Care to the streets of Indy.