LIMA — Jessica Baker admitted she was unaware of how bad the homeless situation was in Allen County.
“Once I read the numbers I wanted to help out in some way,” Baker, an OSU-Lima student from Northwood, said Wednesday as she and others walked the campus with signs about poverty and homelessness.
The school’s Newman Student Outreach and Campus Crusades for Christ organized the event, inviting OSU-Lima and Rhodes State College students to participate.
The signs spoke of 1.02 million Americans being undernourished in 2009, a 15 percent increase from 2006. They also talked of 649 meals served daily at soup kitchens and shelters in Allen County, and that an average of 163 people weekly stay in area shelters.
“I want to break the apathy I see among kids my age, just blowing their minds with the numbers just like mine was,” Baker said.
The event is part of “Resolve to Fight Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.” Organizers hoped the day would not only raise awareness about poverty and homelessness, but entice people to help. About 80 students signed up to assist at area shelters.
“We’re trying to bring the ABC [Awareness Brings Compassion] to the OSU-Lima and Rhodes State campus,” said student organizer Jim Parker, of Lima. “We are trying to bring the awareness here, and then with the awareness will come the compassion.”
The groups plan to go further next year and raise money. A big part of this year’s efforts are geared toward opening students’ eyes about the issue locally.
“A lot of people don’t know there is homelessness here in Lima because it is not a big city, so you don’t really think about it,” said student organizer Felicia Boham, of Lima.
Boham is a social work major and wants to help the homeless as a career. There is much to be learned from them, she said.
“They are just really awesome people,” she said “You learn to appreciate what you have.”
“You learn to not take for granted that you wake up in a warm house and you eat a warm meal and that you have the electricity to have all that,” Parker added.
Robert Stolzenburg, a Rhodes State student from Lima, began volunteering monthly at the Lima Rescue Mission two years ago. He and fellow members at Allentown United Methodist Church help serve meals. Usually there are at least 50 people at the mission.
“It blew me away,” he said, saying he looks at the issue differently now. “You don’t look at them as homeless people once you get to know them. You look at them as human beings.”