Lena Rodrigues hovers in the back of the church hall, straightening already perfect rows of knit hats and gloves.
She watches the holiday meal in progress, smiling as dozens of homeless men, women and children enjoy plates of turkey and trimmings.
Her grin grows wider as a 60-year-old man comes to her table, and she gently asks him about his living situation. She hands him a fleece-lined black knit hat and gloves, and shows him the lip balm, Cream of Wheat packet and information packet tucked inside.
The effort seems simplistic, but it is warming the hands, heads and hearts of people living on the streets of Sacramento.
Rodrigues, community affairs coordinator of HOPE Inc., began the campaign, “GLoven the Homeless,” about seven years ago. She was chopping onions at Loaves & Fishes, one of many volunteers prepping ingredients for that year’s Thanksgiving dinner. She looked up from her task and noticed people outside in the cold, shivering and lacking the layers to keep warm.
“They looked so sad – it was just heartbreaking,” she said.
Determined to help those who live exposed to the elements, she hits the flea market in Galt for provisions, largely funding the effort out of her own earnings as a technician at Radiological Associates of Sacramento.
Along the way, she’s recruited others to help, giving hats and gloves to police and sheriff’s deputies, who often come into contact with the homeless.
Todd Reiners, HOPE Inc. executive director, has asked Book of Dreams readers to help purchase 1,500 hats and gloves to help homeless people keep warm this winter.
Rodrigues has gained a core of volunteers to help her efforts. Limmie Propps, 52, passes out hats and gloves at least twice a week.
Propps, who was homeless and met Rodrigues while working for Loaves & Fishes, said it’s a simple but essential need, especially for those who carry their possessions wherever they go.
“This program is critical,” said Propps, who works as a maintenance man at a church and now owns a home in Sacramento. “A lot of people may end up sleeping in bushes and under bridges. Winter doesn’t have mercy.”
Damon Washington, a member of the congregation at Capital City Seventh Day Adventist Church, invited Rodrigues to distribute the hats and gloves at the holiday dinner.
“God loves these people just as much as he loves us,” Washington said. “This is something that’s going to be a blessing to them.”