Above: Linda Price, Renee Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Chaney, Dr. Linda Logan, Gloria Davis and Henrietta Culmer packaged shoeboxes full of food and items for people in need.
By TNCP Staff
LANSING, MI -- For many years, Renee Morgan Freeman has worked to help individuals. However, more recently, she has been seeing more homeless people and those in need asking for money. This past holiday season, she was moved to make a difference and encouraged some other business professionals to join her.
She established ShoeboXpress about 25 years ago as an outreach project for the mission ministry at her Detroit church home, Greater New Mt. Missionary Baptist Church. It was a way of giving back and a ministry that would become dear to her heart.
Working in the mission ministry and her childhood memories never let her forget how precariously close we can all come to being homeless or hungry in our lives.
Freeman recalled, “As a child, I remember when my family traveled south my mother would cook chicken, cake and other food items and pack in shoeboxes for our consumption. Back in the 60's, "colored" folks were not served at many restaurants so the food was prepared so that we could have something to eat. It also was a cost saving measure with so many mouths to feed.”
Her family in the south also left an imprint on an impressionable Freeman, as her family would always gather round when her aunt sent pecans grown on her property through the mail. They were always neatly wrapped in a sturdy shoebox and delicious.
With these thoughts in mind, ShoeboXpress became a project to feed those who stand on corners, sleep under freeways and who look as though they could use a helping hand.
The concept is to fill a shoebox with ready-to-eat products such as sardines, Vienna sausages, potted meat, tuna and chicken snacks, crackers, fruit cups, raisins and such to distribute on the spot, as you drive by or seek out areas where groups of homeless persons congregate.
Freeman has seen the landscape change over the years. She said, “I have seen more persons on street corners, at freeway exits and underpasses with signs asking for help. I live in East Lansing and upon my relocation here from Detroit, there was virtually no one soliciting in my area. Today, it is more prevalent in East Lansing and continues to be in other areas as well.”
The shoeboxes are small enough that recipients will be able to easily store them with their belongings and the items can be eaten without the use of a microwave or stove.
Inside the box, there is also an information sheet that provides contact information for overnight shelters, domestic violence shelters, day shelter, free meals, legal assistance, where to get picture identification and apply for financial entitlements or medical assistance.
Freeman said that while in Detroit, she estimates that over 1,000 shoeboxes were distributed by her mission circle. She is very passionate about this outreach and whenever she has the opportunity, she tries to promote and incorporate it in programs which she is involved with. She was thrilled to introduce the ministry to the Greater Lansing Area Club (GLAC), which was readily received and implemented.
"On Christmas Eve morning, I was driving pass a park where a couple was sleeping under a large tree covered by blankets. They were surrounded by bags. They were very happy to receive the ShoeboXpress gift from the Greater Lansing Area Club. This is a rewarding way of providing food to those in need,” said GLAC member, Elizabeth M. Chaney.
The next ShoeboXpress Outreach is slated for the week of March 20th for the Easter season. Additional distributions will be based on their budget and donations.
However, Freeman said that anyone can be involved and added, “The ShoeboXpress Outreach is something that doesn't require anything but a trip to the grocery store, a shoebox and some tape.”
For more information, please contact Program Chair Renee Morgan Freeman at 313.550.0183 or email email@example.com If you would like to make a donation, please make checks payable to GLAC and mail to: GLAC, P.O. Box 14035, Lansing, MI 48901.
GLAC is an IRC 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving the Greater Lansing Area.
This article was printed in the January 24, 2016 - February 6, 2016 edition.