BALTIMORE - "Follow Me" by Aly Us, blares through two large speakers. A small fluffy dog named "Sweetie" barks at the kids enjoying themselves as they rush by. Mouth watering burgers grill to perfection as jovial onlookers dance, play chess or form a line to partake in the good eats.
No, this isn't your family’s latest gathering. It's Bonnie Lane's Annual initiative, "People's BBQ For The Homeless 2015."
The first thing you notice when you step onto the lawn at St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church is the atmosphere Lane and her colleagues have created for this event.
You don't get the overbearing feeling of well-to-do individuals taking pity on those who have fallen on hard times here. Rather, it is a place of mutual respect, and as one patron stated, between bites of his hamburger, "You're coming into a situation where people are coming together to help other people out. It's more like a cookout than anything!"
For one, now homeless veteran, the severity of the situation that has brought people together is not easily forgotten. "This has been going on for years," he said. "This city has an unfortunate high rate of homelessness, and not much is being done to rectify it." It is easy to see that he is frustrated, but he is genuinely grateful for the opportunity this event provides to lighten his burden, even if only for a few hours. The "People's BBQ For The Homeless" is on it's fourth year in, and according to one of the DJ's from WLOY radio, Loyola University’s home radio station, the turnout steadily has risen.
The event has grown from feeding nearly 500 attendees to more than1,000 in the last few years. It’s been promoted through word of mouth and a a newspaper "Word On The Street," partly written by homeless Baltimoreans. WLOY is it’s in third year providing music during the community cookout.
At least 50 volunteers who devoted their time to serve reflect the spirit of the day. "God has blessed us with numerous things, but nothing feels as good as giving back," the Rev. Troy Edwards said.
Meanwhile his wife, Shenee Edwards explained, "nothing feels more rewarding than knowing you can place a smile on a person's face, regardless of the hustle and bustle life may have thrown at them for the day. The two own a Christian record label and are in their second year of volunteering for the event.
The "People's BBQ for The Homeless" is a beacon of hope, in a city that desperately needs one, said one participant.