Hi, thank you for visiting our volunteer page! My name is Beth Nawotka, and I’m the Outreach Coordinator for Hotdogs for the Homeless. Let me tell you a little more about our ministry and ways you can help.
Hotdogs for the Homeless is blessed to have many wonderful volunteers, several who help on a regular basis, as well as groups that come in and out to do occasional service work. All are needed and much appreciated.
Every Sunday at noon volunteers meet to begin making and packaging the hotdog lunches that will be served to the homeless. We are making between 275 to 300 lunches right now. Between 1:15 and 1:30 we hit the streets of Oklahoma City to distribute these to those who are homeless and hungry. We especially look for the ones we know who are not living in shelters, the ones in tents, cardboard “houses,” abandoned buildings, sleeping in fields and in old cars.
One sideline of Hotdogs for the Homeless is a clothing ministry which goes out every other Sunday in a separate van following Rick, the Hotdog Man. My husband, Don, and I and our daughters and dedicated volunteers head up this Clothing Crew which brings out men’s and women’s casual clothing, hygiene kits, blankets, backpacks, new socks and underwear, sleeping bags, and hats and coats if it’s winter.
Over the past several years that we’ve been doing this ministry, we’ve witnessed many harsh realities of homelessness on the street. Mental illness, drug addiction, prostitution, domestic violence, and poverty fuel the flame for much of the suffering we see week after week. Toes and feet are lost to frostbite every winter when we get a bad freeze. Cracked and bleeding stumps linger throughout the rest of the year causing these people to limp or take to the streets in wheel chairs. People bathe in the river and in water that collects off the roof tops of abandoned buildings. They keep warm in makeshift tents and huts made out of old mattresses, cardboard boxes, and tarp. Their faces show complete loss of self-worth and hope. Too many of them live this way because they truly believe this is all they can do and no other solution will work for them.
As Rick says again and again, this ministry really isn’t just about the hotdog. The hotdog lunch is our vehicle to meet them face to face and get to know them personally and gain their trust week after week by being there consistently for them. The homeless may have problems, but they are people with hearts and feelings just like you and me. They just need someone to listen and care. When we bring clothing and get to know their special needs and sizes, they talk to us and open up to us about their inner struggles and fears.
We earn their trust and we start to understand what they need the most so we can help them get into rehabs, reconnect them with family members, get them into jobs, medical care, and housing. Many times it takes numerous attempts at rehab before it finally works. Sometimes it doesn’t work and they go straight back to the street. But we can’t judge or give up on them. They hide from us in embarrassment at first, before they realize that we aren’t going to give up on them. Our biggest success story is a former prostitute that we are rehabilitating that we put into drug rehab twice. The last time was her 8th shot at rehab. At the time of this writing she has been off the street, working, connected with her family, and drug free for almost a year and a half. Isn’t God great?
when we see the most pitiful situations, like the lady who lived in her
wheelchair for months and months on end and had sores that would ooze and bugs
crawling on her, and we know we could do
something to help, we’ve learned that we can’t do anything unless they are
ready and willing. But over time they know they can count on us and, out of the
blue, when they hit their individual bottoms, they know they can count on us to
try to help them.
When it comes to helping people we meet through this ministry, we have found that the key to what we are doing comes with making the right connections between those in need with those who have excess. Most people want to help and are very generous once they hear what we are doing and learn specific ways they can help. It has been heartwarming to see the generous hearts that are opening up to help with this project. People are going through their closets and finding clothes and shoes they aren’t wearing. Not only does it help the needy, but it helps clear space at home as well!
Our outreach has many needs. To help us continue serving the hotdog lunches (which consist of hotdogs, chips, bottled water, a packaged snack, and ketchup and mustard packets) we accept monetary donations to help keep this going.
We also use donations to help with bus tickets to rehabs, occasional motel rooms for sick or beaten up homeless people we find, and to help in the process of rehabilitation of ones we work with.
Another need is for new men’s and women’s socks and underwear of all sizes. The Clothing Crew is distributing approximately 50 pair a week when we take out the clothing. Right now it has been coming out of their personal pockets, but perhaps there is a source somewhere that can help with this. (Could your school, church, or business do a sock or underwear drive for us? The same is true with men’s jeans. We are so desperate for these!)
Hygiene kits are another item our ministry makes and distributes. It is hard to bathe when you are homeless. People save their small soaps and shampoos for us when they travel and we have groups make little kits in Ziplock bags. The two most needed items we seek for donations here is for toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Lunch sacks are decorated by students with encouraging messages. This is another simple service project that helps us a lot and the homeless really appreciate. Also, to make our lunch-making process go faster, we have groups pre-wrap the ketchup and mustard packets in napkins for us.
We give presentations regularly to schools, churches, civic organizations, youth camps, and teacher groups to bring awareness to the plight of homelessness and specific ways people can help. My daughter, Sarah, does an annual city-wide backpack drive and sends out letters to schools asking students to donate their used backpacks at the end of the school year to help the homeless. Every spring she is invited into the schools to talk to students about homelessness, our ministry, and brings awareness to the problems resulting from drug addictions.
The best part of helping in this ministry is being able to connect with people who need us. Believing that God is in control of the connections we make, we stand in awe of the circumstances of opportunity He places us in each week.
*Names have been changed here for privacy.
We are rehabilitating a former prostitute (shown on far left) who was enslaved by her drug addiction to crack cocaine and was living in a cardboard house under a tree in Oklahoma City. She had been abused as a child and throughout her teenage years. As a result of this her anger turned to self hatred and self destruction. In the past two years or so we have helped her by gaining her trust, getting her into rehab, getting her off the street into a home, and reconnecting her with her family. She has been drug-free for almost a year and a half at the time of this writing and working two jobs to support herself and her two children. We continue to give her moral encouragement, guidance, and support every week to help her keep focused, and she is doing great. Praise God!
Two weeks after we began helping Rick and Susan, a woman came to us on the sidewalk and asked for lunches for herself and her three young sons. As we talked with her she revealed that they had been homeless and sleeping in the City Rescue Mission for the last eight months. The kids’ daddy was in prison and, before going to the mission, she had been living with her brother who is a substance abuser and physically abused her and her children. She told us that an agency in the area was offering her a low-income apartment to live in, but she had two days left to prove that she would have support in finding beds for everyone, kitchen supplies, food, and the basics to set up her new household. With no family or friends in the area to rely on, and hardly any belongings of their own, she turned to Rick for help.
Within twenty-four hours and through a chain reaction of phone calls and divine coordination, connections began to click together and soon we were able to completely furnish the apartment, stock their refrigerator and pantry with groceries, and move this family into their new home.
We continue our contact and new friendship with this family. A church generously adopted them and helped them out with groceries and gas for her vehicle until she could get on her feet. Most of all, we gave them support as they transitioned into living on their own after being homeless so long.
The most beautiful thing we witnessed, though, is how the generosity we have shared with this family is now being passed on by them to others in need. Their family bonded with several other homeless families that still live in the rescue mission. Others have been able to move into apartments like they have. They know the needs of these people and they share what they have with them. Many times I have called over to her home and found her fixing dinner for another family in the mission. She says they long for home-cooked meals there and she’ll never forget what it feels like not to have this luxury.
Lord, no one is a stranger to You and no one is ever far from Your loving care. In Your kindness watch over refugees, exiles and the homeless, those separated from their loved ones, young people who are lost, and those who have left or run away from home. Protect those who are without shelter and on the streets. Bring them back safely to the place where they long to be. Help us always to show Your kindness to strangers and to those in need. Amen
While we never push people to pray with us and we really try to stay away from being preachy to the people we meet on the streets because we believe actions speak louder than words, it is a great privilege when we have the opportunity to pray with them. When we are holding hands and eyes are closed, the warmth and spirit of the Lord present with us is breathtaking. Their prayers are often for safety and hope for better times, hope for strength to pull out of their addictions and troubles that pull them down.
One time a man asked us through tears to pray for his fiancé who he had rushed to the hospital emergency room in a shopping cart the night before when he found her almost dead from huffing. Another time we found several individuals who had been beaten and robbed of their belongings when they were sleeping. There have also been times when we have held memorial services for homeless who have died and they have no one else to pray for them except for their friends on the street. We hold these services in the field near the city streets and the homeless come and pray together. We pray for their protection and the courage to beat the odds.
From: Chris Engel
Rick - thank you for allowing me to help you and Susan last Sunday. You
opened my eyes to Christ's abundant love through your ministry. In keeping
with your "H" theme with Hotdogs for the Homeless, I wanted to share with
you what I witnessed on Sunday.
Help - you bring Help not only in food, but in financial assistance to
actually help people get off the streets. I witnessed this in the two bus
tickets to Ft. Worth Texas that you purchased for Summer and James. You
even made a phone call to her aunt to pick them up and allow them to stay at
her house until they can find work.
Hope - I witnessed you giving many of these people some real sense of Hope
through not only your food, but your offering of assistance in clothing,
shoes and general needs that some cannot even find at the shelters.
Hugs - so many of these people receive and offer hugs from you.
Handshakes - those that aren't the "huggy" type will offer and accept your
friendship through a simple handshake.
Hospitality - your kindness and weekly hospitality is present.
Happiness - through your constant smile and encouragement, many showed a
genuine happiness in a difficult time; and the
Heart of Christ - most importantly, you offer Christ's goodness and
blessings. I witnessed this in the spontaneous prayer offered up by one of
your "regulars". How beautiful it was to see you offer God's blessings to
so many in need.
Thank you for letting me tag along. May God continue to bless you and your
family and your ministry. I look forward to helping you again. Peace!
Your Brother in Christ -
October 10. 2004
Powerful! Apparently, Rick had challenged Robert with getting
off the street. Rick promised Robert that if he would get off the street,
Rick would ensure that he would have furniture, some cash, a cell phone, and
in general be a support system to Robert. Robert did get a place to stay and
a job, and Rick has been as good as his word. When Rick describes this chain of
events, I hear a sense of wonder in his voice. Then, he reiterates, It’s not
about the hotdogs.”
October 17. 2004
But, Rick visited with Ray for a good while and to me this
personified the ministry that Hotdogs for the Homeless is really all about.
If all it accomplished was feeding one lonely soul, on a chilly drizzly day,
in downtown Oklahoma City it would be enough.
November 7. 2004
November 28. 2004
Combs, Arthur W.; & Gonzalez, David M.. 1990. Helping
Relationships. Allyn and Bacon, Boston.