BREMERTON — Jeffrey Anderson visited The Salvation Army Friday and was told there was an event in the nearby Masonic Temple that provided free food, shoes, and haircuts.
At noon, he lined up with others, entered the aging facility on Fifth Street at Warren Avenue, and found a seat at one of the 10 round tables. Two pieces of pizza and a cup of orange smoothie were set in front of him. He enjoyed the pizza and sipped the drink with a straw.
“Good,” Anderson said shortly when asked about the meal. Anderson is homeless and lives around the Kitsap Lake area, he said. “I’m gonna keep up to go get some socks.”
It was Anderson’s first time joining the event, hosted annually by Julius Blackwell, the founder of a local nonprofit DocLuvTheKids.
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Anyone who needs shoes, food or a haircut is welcomed to the event, Julius said.
In the temple, volunteers walked in and out to distribute food. Some assisted people to pick out shoes. Barbers brought salon equipment to the scene and cut hair.
Musical artist Nick Norton, 23, sent food and a smoothie to each table. Norton thinks the experience of volunteering at the event was cool, he said.
This was the third year April Mcclure, the co-founder of Three Arrows Salon, volunteered to provide her service at the event. Mcclure said she was seeing more people showing up for a haircut this year, “which was awesome because that means that more people are starting to hear about it.”
“This is a community thing,” said Blackwell, who greeted everyone helping the event and the attendees at the scene.
Blackwell collected donations from his friends in the community and gave them out for free, as he has at the annual event since 2012. The building manager of Masonic Temple, Mike Pursey, has supported the event by providing the space every year, Pursey said.
“I opened up the kitchen, allow everybody to use all the stuff in the building and no charge,” Pursey said.
Last year, the giveaway was canceled because of COVID restrictions. Therefore, around 500 pairs of shoes, some were collected last year, were cleaned and sanitized by Blackwell and his friends in DocLuvTheKids to give away this year, Blackwell said.
Other donations include socks, tampons and sanitary pads, as well as baskets of colorful Easter eggs and bunny dolls.
“That’s just a fantastic program that he (Blackwell) does for the community,” Pursey said.
Cassandra Davila came to the temple with her sister Lisa Downey. They took some food, picked a few pairs of shoes and got Easter baskets for Davila’s three children and Downey’s two kids.
“It’s awesome. Amazing,” Downey said of the event.
“We need something like this for the community, especially all the stuff that we’ve been going through lately,” Davila said. “This right here brings a little hope to a lot of kids and little things like this makes a big difference.”
Knowing Blackwell for about 30 years, Davila was proud of seeing Blackwell hosting the giveaway, though she suggested the event be hosted at a time after students are off from school to allow more kids to participate.
Around 90 people showed up over two hours Friday.
Pop music flew in the air. Two tables, from the Catalyst Public Schools in Bremerton and Express Employment Professionals, were set near the entrance for those who need more information about job seeking or children’s education.
Amanda Gardner, the co-founder of the Catalyst school, went to the event to help set the table and brought her two sons, Jackson and Kellan, to get haircuts.
“The community come together and make sure that kids and families are taken care of for the holiday weekend, it’s just really really nice,” Gardner said.
There were still some shoes left behind at the end of the event and Blackwell would take them back to his shortage of place for next year’s giveaway.
“I just enjoy doing it, you know, if I could do this once a month I will,” Blackwell said.
Contact breaking news reporter Peiyu Lin at email@example.com or on Twitter @peiyulintw.