PORTLAND, Ore. – Saturday, Union Gospel Mission held its 17th annual Operation Overcoat, an event for the homeless and people in need.
Union Gospel Mission anticipates serving more than 1,300 meals and giving away over 3,000 articles of clothing, along with free haircuts, free flu shots, health care information and dental exams.
“It feels good!’ laughed Robert Walker, as he received a haircut, his first in about three months. “I lost about five pounds!”
A big part of the event was to help people prepare for winter. Last year’s winter, with all the snow and ice, was extremely difficult and painful for people living on the streets, said Union Gospel Mission spokesperson Stacy Kean. She says that’s why boots, jackets, and sleeping bags are so important.
“I think it's a reminder that it is a really crucial thing to supply people with good sturdy boots, that they are standing outside in cold wet weather,” said Kean. “Or a sleeping bag. It’s really meaningful. People may think 'oh it’s just a coat, it’s just boots, or they're just doing a clothing giveaway.' For the folks that really need it, it’s critical.”
In the crowd, you’ll also find Mike Stevens. This was his 23rd year of volunteering with Union Gospel Mission, and he has a deeply personal reason for doing so.
“I started using drugs at age 19. At age 35, I lost everything,” said Stevens. “At that same time, God found me where I was, and I was radically transformed.”
His mission Saturday, as it has been for the past two decades, was to inspire others and give a hug or two as well.
As for Robert Walker, getting his hair cut, he was once homeless, and how has a home. He wants people to focus on the good in their lives.
“It makes me feel good,” Walker said, of the Operation Overcoat volunteers. “There’s a lot of good people in the world, and right now, we need to focus more on that, and not the negative.”