Shiel Sexton’s United Way Experience kicked off on October 31 and runs through the end of the year. In addition to raising donations for United Way, employees also made quite a difference in the community:
- We collected enough non-perishable food items to assemble 77 outreach kits for Horizon House, an Indianapolis day shelter for homeless neighbors
- We participated in a competitive College Sports Penny War in support of many deserving United Way Agencies
- We spread some Holiday cheer by sponsoring a family for Christmas through the Hope for the Holidays program
- And, Shiel Sexton received the Company That Cares award from United Way of Central Indiana
Visiting Horizon House to drop off the outreach kits assembled by Shiel Sexton employees was a unique experience:
Our Visit to Horizon House
It can be easy to forget how fortunate most of us are. Being gainfully employed, having a roof over our heads, warm clothing, and enough to eat may not be things we think about taking for granted. I had quite a shift in perspective, however, after a group of us from Shiel Sexton visited the Horizon House to deliver 77 food-filled homeless outreach kits.
It was a busy day in the office, much like any other. With so much to do, I was looking forward to taking a break from my computer to deliver the kits. Knowing it was going to be a full day, I had loaded the kits in the back of my car the night before, so I could make a quick exit about 10 minutes before our arrival time. At ten ‘til, I topped off my coffee and drove to meet my coworkers at Horizon House on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis, not too far from our downtown office.
On the drive I remember thinking, “Wow, we collected so much food. They are going to be so appreciative! I feel so proud!” That feeling of accomplishment stuck with me as I pulled into the parking lot and started unloading boxes. It took me and all three of my coworkers to carry in all the goods. We entered the shelter’s day room and asked for Mary, the woman who was going to give us a tour that day.
A Peanut Butter Sandwich
As we waited, I looked around the room. At the same counter where we were standing had formed a line of men… “I wonder what they are waiting for…” I thought. I heard the man at the front of the line ask for a pair of socks and underwear. My eyes continued around the room. There were quite a few men, some sleeping, some eating, and some just starring at us. Trying not to connect with the starring eyes, I glanced at the man eating – a peanut butter sandwich with a cup of black coffee. His clothes were obviously worn, his eyes were tired, and I could tell he hadn’t showered in some time.
Finally, Mary arrived at the counter to greet us. She escorted us through a doorway, which led to a group of offices. We unloaded all of our kits and she began the tour. Mary showed us the laundry and shower facilities, the library, and the computer lab where willing neighbors receive career training and help with their resumes. We walked past the food service station where I noted the peanut butter sandwiches and coffee. She showed us the locked storage area where many neighbors safely keep their most valued belongings.
As we continued the tour, I was most surprised by the in-house hospital clinic staffed by Eskenazi Health. The clinic, Mary said, provides free healthcare services to their neighbors and keeps most of them from visiting an ER for non-emergent care.
Our last stop on the tour was a climb up the stairs to a storage room full of donations collected by the agency. There were blankets, toiletries, clothing… I noticed the coat rack, pretty empty… Mary explained they had a shortage of extra-large coats, and that many neighbors tend to layer all of the clothing they own to keep warm in the winter, and to prevent theft. I also noticed a section for professional attire, which was quite bare. “Everyone who goes through our career program receives one professional outfit to wear on an interview,” Mary said.
As we stood there taking visual inventory of everything in stock, I asked Mary, “What are you in most need of?” She thought for a second and replied, “Well, the most important items we provide for personal dignity are clean socks and underwear. It can take a lot of courage for someone to ask for them at our front desk, but it’s not always something we have to give.”
At the End of the Tour
As we put on our coats and made our way back toward the doors where we entered, that feeling of accomplishment and pride began to fade. I was glad we could help, of course, but seeing the needs of the agency first hand, seeing the men receiving services, seeing what needs could not be met… It made me feel much differently than I had when I walked in. Our visit made me realize how easily our basic needs can be taken for granted, and that many of us could do so much more to help.
To learn more about Horizon House and how you can help our homeless neighbors, visit www.horizonhouse.cc.
The SCOOP | December 2016 | More from this issue