By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
A local woman started a family tradition, giving new sleeping bags to homeless people in Detroit two years ago, partnering with other groups to help the vulnerable during the holidays.
Gina Guarisco founded Jesus Ink with a like-minded friend seven years ago to help others. It was started to support prison ministries in Michigan, to help those leaving prison, and focusing mostly on women, to help them acclimate to life outside of prison when they start anew with no resources.
“Trying to get a job, trying to get a home, or even personal items, there is no help from the prison system any more,” Guarisco said. “That is why the recidivism rate has been rising. They give you a bus ticket to where you are going and say, ‘See ya later.’”
Two years ago, her family decided to forgo a gift exchange, and instead use the money to help people who have nothing. They started a sleeping bag drive, and it was so successful, they sought another organization with whom to team up to distribute the sleeping bags in the best possible way.
“We didn’t know how to pass them out,” Guarisco said. “We didn’t want to go to the inner city of Detroit and just start driving up and down the streets, so we teamed up with Brightmoor Church.”
They teamed up with Brightmoor Church of Novi, which fed the homeless in a southwest Detroit park every second Sunday the first year. Last year they teamed up with Project Dignity Outreach in Detroit, which feeds the homeless every Sunday afternoon in Downtown Detroit, and also provides socks, coats and a mobile doctor.
Guarisco said they gave out 162 sleeping bags the first year, more than 300 last year, and they hope to hand out more than 500 this year.
“This could happen to me at any time,” Guarisco said. “I am not any different from any of them, and to be able to just put my arms around them and hug them, and let them know that they are just like anybody else, it warms my heart.”
The Downriver YMCA, 16777 Northline Road, in Southgate, serves as a dropoff point for donations of new sleeping bags.
Monetary donations may be made through a GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/azwv5x-sleeping-bags-for-the-homeless.
For more information, or to learn how to help, contact [email protected]
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])