When Rachel Huntley was approached recently by a homeless individual named Lisa, she was showered with gratitude and given a warm embrace.
Huntley, a second-year in early childhood education and a member of Crosswalk Outreach to the Homeless, an Ohio State student organization, had given Lisa food and a coat last year before the winter set in, keeping her warm throughout the season.
“Knowing that our club was able to keep her warm and fed through the winter was awesome,” Huntley said.
The name of the organization comes from what a crosswalk represents and the fact that the group reaches out to those on the streets, said Nick Lascu, a fourth-year in public affairs who founded the student organization with the help of Andy Grayson, a fourth-year in public health, and Elana Berusch, a fourth-year in food science.
“What’s a unifying symbol on the street? A crosswalk. It connects corner to corner. It connects person to person. It allows safe passage of people through an otherwise dangerous area,” he said.
After this semester, Huntley and Michael Mackay, a second-year in mechanical engineering, will serve as co-presidents of the student organization, which works to reach out to homeless individuals by bringing them meals and talking to them.
“They don’t always have control of the situation that they’re in, but we control how we act when we walk by them on High Street,” Huntley said. “When we can offer them a meal and see the joy and know that it’s sustaining them for the day. (That) is huge and so meaningful to me.”
The meals the group makes generally include homemade sandwiches, fruit cups, granola bars and a drink like water or Powerade. The group tries to make the food nutritious while staying within its budget, Huntley said.
Members of Crosswalk Outreach have fostered relationships with many homeless individuals, who then give members tips on where to find other people in need of food. Huntley said this is helpful because homeless individuals and their camps tend to move often.
Crosswalk Outreach consistently reaches out to the homeless individuals on High Street, and, last Sunday, it went as far north as E. Woodruff Avenue and as far south as E. Fifth Avenue.
Huntley, who led the High Street group, approached homeless individuals, introduced herself and asked if they needed a meal for the day. After the five students and the individual had a short conversation, the group moved on to find more people.
The High Street group carried eight bagged meals with them, and within an hour of walking, all eight meals were given away. Huntley said they could have used more meals to give to others they saw.
After the outing, the groups reconvened to discuss what they saw on their routes, share stories and decide whether certain routes needed more or less attention. All the groups reported giving away 24 of the meals that were made.
At St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Lascu was exposed to the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless, a similar student organization that inspired the creation of Crosswalk Outreach.
Crosswalk Outreach started four years ago at Lascu’s home, he said. Now, the group meets and works in the cafeteria of the Summit on 16th United Methodist Church at 82 E. 16th Ave.
Despite working out of a church and the organization’s inspiration coming from a religious background, Lascu said he wanted Crosswalk Outreach to be secular when he founded it, and he thinks it remains that way.
“They (the church) provide us the space to carry out the service in any way we fashion,” he said. “We have a lot of people here with a lot of different religions (and) beliefs. There’s just a lot of diversity in this group.”
The organization makes food at the church and sends out groups to deliver the meals every Sunday starting at 1 p.m.