Although many view Cape Cod as a predominantly affluent location, there is a reality in place here which can often go overlooked. This reality is homelessness. Homelessness is defined as an individual or family who is without a permanent dwelling. This can mean that people travel between the residence of family and friends, between hotels and motels, between shelters, or, for some, in cars or on the streets. Those who are aware of this often asks themselves “What can I do to help”? With this question in mind, the UKSD team set out during these winter months in an effort to help provide answers to that question. As a result of this, we were able to provide crucial and necessary items to those in need.
At the end of February, we partnered with the Hyannis Youth Street Reach program on one of their many powerful projects which are implements to help alleviate some of the stress and pressures of our homeless population here on the Cape. For this 2 day event, UKSD Youth Volunteers worked with the street reach program on a Friday night to organize hundreds of donations ranging from clothes and jackets, to socks and shoes, to hats and mittens, to toiletries, and more.
The evening focused on organizing all of the items and setting up a banquet room for the main event which was the following morning. At 7:00 a.m. the following morning, the doors opened as homeless individuals from our very own communities entered. They were given bags and assistance collecting any items they may need for themselves or for their families. Some people even collected items for friends who were unable to make it to the even for various reasons.
Then, after items were collected, breakfast was served to all who came in. Our volunteers had various jobs throughout the morning. At times, this included making pancakes or eggs and serving food, but, more importantly, our volunteers also mingled in with the guests and enjoyed breakfast with them, person to person. Through meaningful conversation and breaking down socio-economic barriers, our participants were able to meet people and hear their stories. They learned of some of the struggles people faced and their efforts to overcome those struggles.
Our youth leaders were also able to share pieces of their stories. Although this event lasted a few hours, these connections will span much further. When these kids are left with the question, “ What can I do to help”, they will now be able to provide the answer themselves. Donate your time. Volunteer. Be willing to listen. One of the most important tools we can give our youth is the desire and means to create change where needed.
In addition to this event, the UKSD KidzPlay4Free Program partnered with Harwich PD Soccer Saturday, March 3rd, for a full-day, 100% free, Cape-wide futsal tournament. This tournament was called The Community Cup, and it was held at Monomoy High School. The event consisted of over 200 players from all regions of Cape Cod. Each player has been participating throughout the winter in either the UKSD or HPD Free Futsal League and chose to join in on this event. Players and teams were able to participate free of charge, but they were asked to donate a bag on non-perishable food items . We asked, and they delivered. The floor of the entryway into the gym quickly became covered by the donations each team brought. As bag after bag was added, the players and their families began to comment on the magnitude of this type of donation. Some were taken back by the feeling of being able to play a game that they love while also being able to help an individual or family who may be struggling at the moment. After the conclusion of the day, the HPD staff brought the donations to Upper Cape food pantries who were seeking donations. Anytime of the year can be difficult, but the winter can bring entirely different levels of challenges. Donating food can make a profound difference in diminishing some of those challenges for an individual or family. Participants in this event were able to see, first hand, what can happen when communities come together in support of one another. We can’t wait to hold our annual Street Soccer Food Donation tournament in Hyannis this June.
It’s safe to say that UKSD members have been working hard this winter on many meaningful and impactful projects. It is our wish that our participants not only join in our organized efforts to help combat issues such as homelessness, but that they begin to branch out on their own and help in other ways. Now that they have the tools, it is our wish that they will encourage their families, friends, and other community members to join in the cause.