On Sunday, I rode along with the convoy of pickups and SUV's that normally transport music gear -- only this time they were loaded with used clothing and blankets. Warm Up Fort Worth is the brainchild of Phil Wallace of the Snake Shaker Revival. He had the idea to rally the Funkytown music scene into collecting and distributing warm clothes to the homeless. And people have answered his call.
"I kind of just woke up one morning," says Phil, "and all this was in my head. I'm not typically the type to do charity work, I'm more of a hellraiser musician. Looking at it from outside my own skin I think, man this is weird that I'm the guy doing this."
We left the Chat Room Pub and the trendy Fairmount district behind and rolled toward the east Lancaster area. The crowd saw us coming as we turned onto Cypress behind the mission and people quickly started moving our direction. Family Baptist Church was already set up serving burgers as we pulled in and parked across the street. They would serve 400 burgers on Sunday, and they plan on serving 600 next month.
Phil says he will keep doing this as long as donations continue to pour in. They need the obvious things (warm coats, hats, gloves, socks) and hygiene items (toothpaste and deodorant), and the not-so-obvious like duffel bags or black contractor trash bags for the homeless to keep their clothes dry. Men's boxers and women's underwear also are appreciated, as is pretty much any clothing that is still serviceable.
Keeping the distribution orderly is major ordeal. As we made our first stop, people came running from all up and down Lancaster. After last week's drive nearly got out of hand, the volunteers took a firmer stance -- telling the eager crowd they would move on if everyone didn't back up. Order was quickly restored and the recipients of the clothing were appreciative and reasonable. In addition to musicians such as Wallace and Brother Burnett, there were family and friends (even children) helping with the long lines.
With more clothes still to be distributed, we regrouped and made our way down to just in front of the Presbyterian Night Shelter. Once again, the grateful crowd surrounded the trucks before we even stopped. More blankets and the rest of the clothing were distributed.
Nearly everyone wanted to know which church group was sponsoring the project. Many stared in disbelief when they were told it was not a church -- just a group of musicians who wanted to help those less fortunate.
There but for luck, friends, and family (the grace of God, in other words) could go any one of us.
"It's not easy to be homeless," Phil said, "but it's easy to become homeless."
Sally Birthisel will be at the Chat Room on Saturday to take donations from 1 p.m. till close, and there will be another run next Sunday. If you have old clothes you would like to donate, drop them by.
The Chat Room is at 1263 West Magnolia Avenue.