'Blessing in disguise'
Skyline Urban Ministry has continued its outreach to the homeless despite the recent theft of most of its ministry materials.
Leaders with the nonprofit briefly had wondered if the Jan. 29 theft of a trailer full of ministry items would be a setback.
"It was traumatic. We worked really hard to get this trailer and all the stuff for us to use only to have it taken," said Brian Stevens, Skyline's operations director.
However, Deborah Ingraham, the agency's executive director, said the theft and recovery of the trailer turned out to be a "blessing in disguise."
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Ingraham said members of the community-at-large quickly came forward to ensure that Skyline's street outreach program would not have to be shut down, even temporarily. She said the news about the trailer theft generated publicity and resulted in more people learning about the organization's mission to help the most vulnerable in their midst.
"Not only has everything been covered, but it's a blessing because it's given people more awareness of the ministry," Ingraham said.
She and Stevens said one of the first to offer support was an Edmond-based company called Clubhouse Trailers that offered their complimentary services to fix what the thieves broke when they stole the trailer. The company also decided to make the trailer better and more efficient by installing lighting on the interior and exterior, plus installing solar panels. Stevens said the lighting will make it easier for the ministry when it offers evening meals that continue after sunset.
"They gave us things that we didn't even have before," he said of Clubhouse Trailers. "Basically, it restored my sense of humanity — even though there's bad, there's still a lot of good out there."
'The true blessing'
Thieves stole the ministry's trailer from the agency's parking lot about 10 p.m. Jan. 29 after staff members and volunteers were gone from Skyline's headquarters, 500 SE 15.
At the time, Ingraham expressed her disappointment when Newcastle police found the trailer, but it had been emptied of about $6,000 worth of goods.
In the immediate aftermath of the theft, Ingraham appealed to kind-hearted members of the community whom she hoped would help the agency replace the stolen goods. The stolen items included picnic tables, canopy-tents, benches, a microwave, a gas generator, space heaters, shoes, blankets, sleeping backs, water bottles, clothing and warming trays.
Skyline, an affiliate of the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church, had only purchased the trailer in January for its street outreach program to the homeless that began in June 2018.
Ingraham and the Rev. Andre Contino, the outreach's coordinator, said Skyline has continued to go throughout the city to aid the homeless, with the public's support.
"The beauty of this is there's not one single group that can make this happen," Contino said during a recent outreach stop in a lot adjacent to Cambridge Community Church, 1200 S Walker.
"I think that's the true blessing."
People lined up for a free hot meal of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, peas and bread. Those who came for the meal also had an opportunity to obtain free bags of toiletry items.
Contino said thieves had stolen all of the blankets, sweaters and coats that had been intended for the homeless, but community members were generously showing up at the outreach locations with donations of the warm weather items.
Contino said about nine churches, mostly United Methodist, but not all, have been helping with the outreach.
Skyline staff and volunteers provide hot meals at four homeless camps on Mondays and Tuesdays. They also provide meals weekly at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at a location near Cambridge Community Church; 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1401 NW 25; and 6:30 p.m. Thursday at 7200 S Walker.
Ingraham said the homeless ministry has helped Skyline reach out to the community in a new way.
She said Skyline's food pantry provides food and meals to people "in the shadows," specifically people who have housing but who are working low-wage and minimum-wage jobs. She said the homeless outreach is designed to provide meals and other aid to people who don't have shelter, who may lack transportation to get to an agency like Skyline or who may have other barriers to overcome like mental health and substance abuse issues or lack of a government issued ID (which is required by many food pantries).
"Our mission is to help those in the shadows, and these are people in the shadows," she said.
"We feel it's our responsibility to see that everyone's eating to the best of our ability."
How to help
For more information about Skyline Urban Ministry or to make a donation to its street outreach program or other programs, call 632-2644, or go to https://www.skylineurbanministry.org.