Midnight Run brings supplies to homeless, life-changing experiences to volunteers

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Midnight Run volunteers prepare food, hygiene supplies and winter wear for homeless people in New York City at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock. (Photo courtesy of Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock)

Carloads of young adults from Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock and hundreds of bags of supplies will head into New York City late Friday night as part of Midnight Run.

A national volunteer organization, Midnight Run is a volunteer organization “dedicated to finding common ground between the housed and the homeless.”

The Rev. Natalie Fenimore, minister of lifespan religious education for the congregation, said members strive for at least two runs per year, usually during the winter when the need is greatest for not only food and toiletries but also coats and winter wear.

“It’s an extension of what we believe people should be doing in the world,” Fenimore said. “It was very important for us in an area where people are often isolated from those in need. We wanted to make sure our children and families have an opportunity to see the need in the world and a vehicle to make a change.”

The all-night event typically kicks off around 6 p.m. with people from young children through adults gathering to prepare 100 bag lunches, 100 toiletries bags “and a ton of soup,” Fenimore said, along with coats and other winter necessities.

Fenimore said only high school-aged children or older are allowed on the runs, and the run on Friday is geared toward college students home for winter break. Younger children, however, are invited to help prepare the supplies, which were all donated by congregants in the weeks leading up to the run.

After a group dinner, the supplies and volunteers head into the city around 9 p.m. for a long night in the cold, set up at a location approved by the Midnight Run organization and hand out supplies to those in need.

“They’re getting a sense of the hardships people can have trying to survive in a big city or just in the world,” Fenimore said. “This winter, it’s very cold, so people are especially sensitive to how important what they’re offering is and how fundamental it is for survival. It’s not presents that are disposable or a luxury; they’re in a position to give people what is absolutely needed for their life.”

Fenimore said the group is usually back in Manhasset by about 3 a.m. and usually volunteers have a new perspective on poverty and homelessness on a personal level.

“People report about it being a life-changing experience for them,” Fenimore said. “They are able to have personal conversations with people about their situations and see them as human beings. They have the opportunity to help someone and share their good fortune one on one. While our community is committed to justice movements as well, the act of simply giving charity is also part of what we ask people to do.”

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