Gift of coats will help keep RHM’s overnight shelter guests warm

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 14, 2013

The idea of a winter coat drive as an outreach project had been forming for some time, but members of the local graduate chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity took heed when the year’s first cold snap hit.
That’s when Herman Holmes, member of the Tau Alpha Chapter based here, said he realized how cold it must be for the homeless on nights like that.
Friday night, as night fell and the temperature dropped, members of the fraternity walked up to the loading dock at the Rowan Helping Ministries overnight shelter with their arms full of coats for men, women and children – about 60 in all.
“I see homeless people all the time,” said Holmes, who helped coordinate the coat drive.
“And, when I look at my closet and see two or three warm coats, and people out there who have none, then I have too much,” Holmes said.
Franklin Downing, chapter president, said the coat drive is an outreach project that’s been some time in the making, and very rewarding now that it’s completed.
Members of Omega Psi Phi’s local chapter are involved in a number of outreach projects, said spokesman Augustus Jones.
In addition to working with the undergraduate chapter at Livingstone College, Jones said, local Omegas are currently trying to identify outreach projects in the community, and to make a positive impact.
Aside from the coat drive, Jones said that members have volunteered at the Rowan Helping Ministries shelter, and have also helped organize a blood drive.
“Our principles encourage us to be men who go back into our community and serve, to be role models and mentors,” Jones said.
David Holston, shelter director for Rowan Helping Ministries, said the gift will be greatly appreciated.
“Coats are always an issue,” Holston said. The homeless clients the agency serves are often outdoors for most of the day, returning to the shelter when it opens in the evening.
“They need coats to stay warm,” Holston said. “You need more than a windbreaker.”
The bags of heavy coats collected by the Omegas will help fill an immediate need as the coldest months of the year arrive.
Rashid Muhammad, member of the fraternity, said it was touching for him to arrive with the coats and see the shelter guests lined up outside to come in for the evening.
Meanwhile, Downing said the local graduate chapter is currently trying reach out to members of the fraternity who aren’t active, hoping to recruit more Omegas to take part in projects like this one in the months ahead.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.