Those who step up to the window of the Salvation Army’s Omaha night watch truck know they’re getting a hot meal. But during the cold winter months, the warmth quickly fades when warm clothes are nowhere in sight.
Night watch volunteers take to the streets every weeknight through February, handing out hot meals and donated items to keep homeless and working poor families warm.
“The winter coat is a big thing. Because without that, they freeze out there,” said volunteer Annette Zeplin. “[We give] a lot of hats, gloves, and socks because those are the things that get wet. Those are the things that you run out of. You can't keep enough in the cold weather.”
Zeplin has ridden in the night watch truck for more than a decade. So far this year, many of the needy are men; that prompted an urgent call this week for more men’s coat donation.
“We are still in need of more men's coats. We are still short on men's socks--new socks--or gently used blankets; we are in need of a lot of blankets. Those went really fast as well,” said night watch staffer Jamie Swisher.
Swisher said 15 groups stepped in following Tuesday’s plea for more coats. But the need remained great Wednesday night. Night watchers sometimes ration their items among stops, so all needy customers have a chance at warmth.
“We try to stock a couple on board in every size. That way we hopefully don't have to tell them we are out,” Zeplin said.
Homeless veteran Michael Ray Felder welcomed his new coat Wednesday, and thanked those who donated the items.
“Me, being a homeless Vietnam veteran, I love it. I love it. Thank god for beautiful people,” Felder said.