The timing of this year’s Rotary Club of Grand Island’s annual Undie Sunday to benefit the homeless in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and surrounding areas is ideal considering the recent subzero temperatures during the Blizzard of 2019. Beginning on Sunday, Feb. 10 and concluding on Sunday, Feb. 24 donations are encouraged of the basic needs of new and unused underclothing and socks for homeless men, women and children.
Donations may be placed in the hampers at the following churches on Grand Island: Bible Fellowship Center, 1136 Baseline Rd.; Bible Presbyterian, 1650 Love Rd.; Island Presbyterian, 1822 Huth Rd.; St. Martin’s in the Fields Episcopal Church, 2587 Baseline Rd.; St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church, 2100 Baseline Rd.; St. Timothy’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1453 Staley Rd. In addition, donations may also be placed in the hampers at Ace Hardware, 1889 Whitehaven Rd; Grand Island Library, 1715 Bedell Rd; Island Pharmacy, 1728 Grand Island Blvd.; Island Ship Center and Momma D’s Bakery & Café, 1879 Whitehaven Rd.; KeyBank, 2180 Grand Island Blvd.; M&T Bank, 2381 Grand Island Blvd.; Northwest Savings Bank, 2300 Grand Island Blvd; Tops Friendly Markets, 2140 Grand Island Blvd.; lobby of Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Rd.
The death of Lawrence Bierl, 69, a homeless man who was found January 31 in an outdoor Williamsville bus shelter, clearly showed the danger of being exposed to extreme cold. His death led to a buzz on social media about homelessness in our community and how something like this could happen. Homelessness is an issue in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and surrounding areas much like it is in many cities throughout the country. The good news about the homeless in New York State is that Code Blue legislation passed in 2016 to protect homeless men, women and children during extreme weather conditions.
Code Blue Shelters in Buffalo are located at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, 325 Walden Ave.; Harbor House, 241 Genesee St. and Holy Cross Church, 412 Niagara St. Code Blue has an outreach van that transports the homeless to one of these locations when the wind chill and temperatures fall below 32 degrees between Nov. 15 and March 15. Code Blue is funded by the City of Buffalo, Erie County, National Fuel and Rich Products, who donated the outreach van.
I know first-hand the great work that is being done during Code Blue at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, which was founded nearly 25 years ago and which fills its dining area with cots when there is a Code Blue evening. Harbor House, which is staffed by Restoration Society, Inc. staff members, is a downtown location for the homeless. When they arrive, they receive a warm meal, a cot, blanket and pillow and a place where their clothes, boots and themselves can warm up. In the morning, they receive a hot meal before departing. The bed clothing is professionally cleaned each day.
One of the great needs is for undergarments and warm socks and that is where the Grand Island’s Undie Sunday comes in. After collecting donations through February 24 at the above locations, the donations will be sorted and delivered to the Buffalo City Mission, Community Mission of Niagara Falls, Harbor House and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy.
Christian Hoffman, director of public relations and development for the Community Mission of Niagara Falls, is extremely appreciative of this program. “This is one of those subjects that some find a bit uncomfortable to talk about—the need for clean socks and underwear. That is understandable because it is, well, private. What’s more, clean undergarments are something that most of us take for granted. Yet, for the homeless and those struggling with extreme poverty, it is an ongoing concern.”
That is also what impresses Yusuf Mojawalla, 19, the manager of his family’s Island Ship Center (lead image). “We love this promotion because it allows us to make a donation of an item we do not think much about. But, for the homeless in our community, they are so appreciative to receive new, clean socks and undergarments. Our customers were so happy to see the hamper in our store and they all said they were going shopping for these important items.”
Helping others in the community is the culture his parents, Fahim and Seema have instilled into the staff at Island Ship Center over the past 14 years. On Veteran’s Day they work with the DeGlopper Post of the American Legion on Grand Island Blvd. to collect all types of essential gifts for local residents serving our country as active duty military. Volunteers help sort the donations, pack and address the boxes before they are shipped to each of the hometown military, who are pleasantly surprised when they open the huge care package from their neighbors back home on Grand Island.
“Our family prides itself on giving back to our community,” explained Yusuf, a Grand Island High School graduate and current freshman at Medaille College who says he follows JFK’s famous message, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
“We sincerely appreciate the generosity of all those who donate to this extremely important program. These items provide a personal dignity, comfort and warmth for the homeless in our community,” said Faye Teluk, Chair of the Rotary Club of Grand Island’s Undie Sunday committee.
The committee commended Tops Friendly Markets and Niagara Frontier Publications for providing the advertisement in the Grand Island Dispatch, Island Ship Center for donating posters and Popular Graphics for creating the banner which will be posted on the Town sign at Whitehaven and Grand Island Blvd.
For more information, visit www.rotaryclubgi.org or call 716.863.2577.