By Michael J. Billoni
Drew Bernstein is a missionary at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy on Buffalo’s East Side. He is also the coordinator of its Code Blue initiative when up to 50 cots and bedding are rolled out for homeless men to escape the winter cold at night when the temperatures are below freezing. It is a place where these men can obtain a hot meal and breakfast in the morning, dry their clothing and hopefully, a good night’s sleep in a safe environment.
Bernstein, who has been working with the homeless and families in need for most of his adult life, is also a member of the Mission’s Voices of Mercy and he writes and performs Christian songs. He is so appreciative that St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy is one of the two beneficiaries with the Community Missions of Niagara Frontier Inc. of the annual Rotary Club of Grand Island’s Undie Sunday.
“Many of the men who come in here tend to be at the end of their rope or just clinging to it,” Bernstein explained. “Code Blue gives them the opportunity to stay alive one more night. The generosity of those who donate to your Undie Sunday allows us to give them a clean, warm pair of socks which doesn’t just protect their feet, it protects their souls.”
He explains: “Everyone has a different story and reason on why they are homeless. For some it’s just bad luck and others it’s just bad choices they have made. I remind them all that God did not put them in this place. God puts himself there with them today and the charity of receiving clean underwear and socks reminds them of that.”
While putting on a pair of clean, warm socks is commonplace for us, for the homeless men, women and children, it is a Godsend. “What they ask most often is if we have any clean socks,” Bernstein said. “The homeless are on their feet almost all day and they get wet, cold and dirty, so a fresh pair of socks makes them feel refreshed.”
Rev. Mark H. Breese, agency minister and director of ministry and community partnerships at the Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, reiterates that need. “During winter months, items we are in great need for are children’s and women’s undergarments and especially, larger sizes (Large, XL and XXL) of men’s underwear and socks.
“We are so appreciative for the residents of Grand Island thinking of the Community Mission again as a beneficiary because in the winter, our needs are always great,” he continued.
The annual Rotary Club of Grand Island’s Undie Sunday, which has been collecting new and unused underwear and socks for local missions for more than 10 years, will be held Feb. 10 to 24.
Look for the distinctive red hampers in locations around Grand Island to deposit your gift of undergarments and warm socks, including the following churches: Bible Presbyterian, 1650 Love Road; Island United Presbyterian, 1822 Huth Road; St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, 2587 Baseline Road; St. Stephen R.C. Church, 2100 Baseline Road; and Trinity Methodist Church, 2100 Whitehaven Road. In addition, donations may also be placed in the hampers at Ace Hardware, 1889 Whitehaven Road; Eggsquisite Eats, 1752 Grand Island Blvd.; Grand Island Cooperative Nursery School, 2100 Whitehaven Road; Grand Island Memorial Library, 1715 Bedell Road; Heron Pointe, 1993 Grand Island Blvd.; Island Ship Center, 1879 Whitehaven Road; KeyBank, 2180 Grand Island Blvd.; M&T Bank, 2381 Grand Island Blvd.; Niagara Frontier Publications, 1859 Whitehaven Road; Northwest Savings Bank, 2300 Grand Island Blvd; Tops Friendly Markets, 2140 Grand Island Blvd.; lobby of Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road; Viking Diner, 1849 Grand Island Blvd. A hamper will also be at Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore, and its home delivery customers on Grand Island are encouraged to put donations in their green pick-up bags.
“Undie Sunday is a promotion that fits perfectly with our Rotary mission of ‘Service Above Self.’ Both of these wonderful organizations are so grateful for the donation of new, unused underwear and socks for the needy and homeless they care for,” said Sherry Miller, the Rotary Club of Grand Island’s president-elect and chairwoman of Undie Sunday.
Christopher Billoni, vice president of Colvin Cleaners, added: “We are honored to be a part of this amazing community project. Colvin Cleaners is always looking for ways to help those less fortunate. Our trucks are on Grand Island twice a week picking up and delivering dry cleaning for our customers, so Grand Island is our home, and we want to support the Rotary Club.”
The Undie Sunday sponsors are: Tops Friendly Markets, Niagara Frontier Publications and Colvin Cleaners for providing advertisements in the Island Dispatch and the Grand Island PennySaver; Island Ship Center for donating posters and Popular Graphics for creating the poster graphics and the banner which will be posted on the town sign at Whitehaven and Grand Island Boulevard.
The Rotary Club of Grand Island holds a breakfast meeting the second Wednesday of each month Eggsquisite Eats and a dinner meeting on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Buffalo Launch Club. For more information on the club or membership, visit www.rotaryclubgi.org or the Rotary Club of Grand Island Facebook page.