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Underground epidemic finds helping hand as local nonprofit hopes to be key resource for those in need
Austin Bonds has had the desire to help those in need for sometime.
The former New York City resident worked with the homeless and underprivileged of the city for some time before a quick trip changed everything.
After traveling to Texas to visit a friend, Bonds felt compelled to move his family to The Colony and establish the city's first resource center for those in need, Metro Relief.
Metro Relief is a nonprofit organization with a simple goal: go to the people, meet the people and take care of the people.
"What we try to be is a place for anyone," said Bonds, director of Metro Relief. "You don't have to be a Mormon, a Catholic or a Christian - you don't have to be anything. We just want to be a place to help the community. We don't shy away from the fact that we are Christians, but we aren't out there 'Bible thumping.' We aren't down there preaching with a loud speaker and a microphone. I don't exclude anyone, I just tell people this is who we are."
While the homeless population in The Colony may not be a well-publicized issue, it's one that is very real and very present, Bonds said, and most of the city's homeless are sleeping in cars or in a tent.
"We find that a lot of people in need that are very poor are also addicted," Bonds said. "We try to help them get into rehab because that's the reason why they are poor, or they don't have a job, or they're living on the street, or why their kids got taken away from them. So we try to help them get out of those situations. We are tied into the recovery team locally as well as in the Metroplex."
One such case presented itself Friday afternoon. A man living in his truck near Lewisville Lake in The Colony went to Metro Relief looking for assistance. Bonds offered to help the man sell his truck, which was not running, for scrap and place him in a rehab program.
"The cops found him and told him he needed to move," Bonds said. "The place we found for him was rehab, but that's only if he wants to go. He said he is going to go, but he is going to wait until Monday. We found a place for him to sell his truck and now we need a place to keep his stuff, then he'll go to rehab. But you never know. That's the thing, he might not be ready, but if they aren't willing to go, you can't force them."
Bonds said most rehabs Metro Relief teams with help individuals for free. But this restoration process isn't the only side of the organization.
"We have two arms to what we do - one is the bus outreach and the other is the resource center," Bonds said.
The Storehouse, Metro Relief's food pantry, is a full-service food pantry and opportunity provider for The Colony and the surrounding DFW-area. Founded in 2006, the pantry provides weekly assistance to families in need, regardless of their current economic circumstances.
The Storehouse also provides prayers, encouragement and tangible support for those that may be isolated because of their circumstances. According to its website, the goal is to be invested in the lives of those in need through providing basic needs and assistance with resolving the circumstances they are in.
When the Storehouse first opened, it had three volunteers working in a single room with a single shelf. In 2010, the Storehouse served 21,000 meals. They have several volunteers from the area and individuals in need come from Frisco, The Colony, Lewisville as well as surrounding areas.
The vast need represented by the unemployed and those who are financially strapped are quickly depleting food pantries across the country, according to the organization.
"There are quite a few thousand in the Metroplex," Bonds said. "We are going to try to become the resource center for The Colony. There is no other resource center in the city. A year ago when we got here we were averaging about 40-50 families a week, now we have doubled that and average nearly 100 families a week that come to get food here."
It's not just The Colony that Metro Relief aims to serve; with their bus and volunteers in tow, the organization's members take weekly trips to South Dallas and Fort Worth delivering food to those in need. Each week, Bonds said the organization has about 40 volunteers helping in their outreach programs and the food pantry. But, with the growing need, the organization always needs more help.
"We need funds and volunteers," Bonds said. "We need people to do all kinds of different jobs throughout the whole organization - we need people to help with the food pantry, and go down to Dallas. But we also need funding. We are growing, you can tell by our numbers-we've doubled. We get food from the North Texas Food Bank, but we need to supplement that. Sometimes people bring in food but sometimes we need to buy food."
In an effort to alleviate some of the financial stressors that come with non-profit organizations, Metro Relief has teamed with the Tribute Golf Club for the Metro Relief Golf Tournament on Nov. 19. Golfers arrive at 11 a.m. and tee times start at noon for a four-person scramble. The price is $150 per golfer or $600 for a foursome, and proceeds benefit Metro Relief and dinner is included after the tournament.
To get involved with Metro Relief or for information about the tournament, visit metrorelief.org.
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