ST. PETERSBURG – Thousands of people are homeless in St. Petersburg, many on the streets and in need of help. The Harvest is Ripe Outreach organization spends every second and fourth Tuesday giving back to those in the greatest need throughout south St. Petersburg.
“We feed 100 people every two weeks,” said Marsha Chaney, CEO and co-founder. Harvest is Ripe Outreach routinely collaborates with Pinellas Hope to provide hot meals and non-perishable food to the homeless. “We provide for whoever is there.”
So it is no surprise that they will once again partner up for their MLK Day of Service project. Chaney took the initiative, applied and received a grant to give back. The plan is to provide hygiene products to the homeless who show up at Tropicana Field after the MLK Parade. Non-perishable food will also be on hand. Chaney is expecting some 200 to show up in need.
“I’m not doing something just to be doing something,” she said. “I know how it is; I’ve been touched by it.”
Although Chaney is now a successful hairstylist and the backbone of Harvest is Ripe Outreach, she was once homeless herself. She used to sleep in the dugouts at Campbell Park Baseball Field. On the streets, dirty and down on her luck, she knows what if feels like to be alone and in survival mode.
“People would give me food, and I had some people put me up for a couple of nights to sleep.”
Some people she came across gave her clothes, helped provide shelter for her child and helped her get back on track. The gestures of goodwill she received now propel her to pay her success forward.
So with the grant money allotted to her, Chaney and her organization are striving to make a difference.
Not only will they provide food and toiletries such as soap, toothpaste and toilet paper, along with other essentials and a bag to put them in, Harvest is Ripe Outreach also plans to host a hot meal on Jan. 13 as well.
Alongside Pinellas Hope, they will serve ham, chicken breast, rice, potatoes and lots of veggies to any person in need who shows up. Dinner rolls, cake and lemonade will also be available from 5-7 p.m. at Pinellas Hope, 5726 126th Ave. N. in Clearwater.
Chaney and her crew of volunteers also have a workshop planned after the MLK Day of Service event at Worship City Church on Central Avenue. A variety of resources will be available to those in need. From experts in healthcare who can teach participants how to take care of themselves and their bodies, to information about jobs. Referrals and clothes for job interviews and daily living will also be available.
“This is something new that we’re doing,” said Chaney. “I hope it will be a help to them.”
The Harvest is Ripe Outreach organization is always in need of volunteers. “Ten minutes, five minutes…whatever time they can give is a blessing,” she said.
Food and money donations are always needed as well. They service the homeless year round and are grateful for any time and resources that members of the community can provide. Chaney hopes to one day be able to use her beauty salon as a training site to get women back on the feet, off drugs and reunited with their children.
However, for now, she is focused on making the MLK Day of Service events she have planned a success. She knows all too well that the homeless are all over Pinellas County and feels confident they will be pack all three events planned.
“When they know that someone is out there giving out stuff,” Chaney said, “they will come.”
Those wishing to get involved through volunteering or donations can contact Chaney at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to her secretary Sonya Graham at email@example.com.