NORTH PORT — Suddenly, Debbie Miller is Santa Claus.
The North Port woman, her grandkids and friends had helped feed and clothe some of the city’s homeless. She started in September with home-cooked meals, complete with menus and desserts. That was a daily thing at Veterans Memorial Park in North Port. She and others ran a Thanksgiving lunch on Thursday for the homeless.
Now they plan for Christmas. It’s a sort of adopt-the-homeless event. Their Street Angels program allows volunteers to select a homeless man or woman, to then fill that person’s Christmas wishlist, Miller said.
“Something they want or need,” she said of those selected for the program. “Underwear, sunglasses, even a watch. All different little things that don’t cost much.”
Miller’s help is part of a bigger movement to help North Port’s needy people and families. Awaken Church held a pre-Thanksgiving food and clothing giveaway Wednesday in North Port, for instance. Antonio Pereira donated everything but supply costs from his Savor 100×35 food truck at that event, and volunteers brought bags of clothes and other things for the homeless visiting LaBrea Park.
North Port’s homeless outreach officers were present to offer advice and direction, as well. Awaken Church plans a Christmas Eve event at City Green near North Port City Hall, spokesperson Larry Grant said. There will be toy giveaways and fun things for struggling families, he added. That runs from 3:30-8:30 p.m. Details are at 941-200-5400.
“The goal is to help a lot of people,” Grant said. “Foster families, inmate families. It is nothing about us (church).”
To fund their annual holiday toy giveaway, North Port police hold the annual Protect and Serve event at Wings and Rings sports bar and restaurant on Nov. 30. With a grant from Walmart and other sources, city officers escort selected children at the Tamiami Trail Walmart from Dec. 14-17, each child given a $100 gift card, said Sgt. Scott Miranda, the officer running the city’s homeless outreach team.
“My goal,” he said, “is 100 kids … you’re making 100 Christmases.”
Miller before her work with the homeless had only imagined such things, she said. Now her team supplies food, some clothing, lotions and notions, all donated. The group uses the NextDoor and Facebook social media platforms to drive interest. The Sun newspaper was another source for sparking donations.
“God just put me here,” said Jill Wischhusen, a retired housing administrator assisting Miller, “because somebody is dropping the ball.”
The Street Angels program and giveaways with Miller’s group happen Dec. 19 at the 100 Church , 14525 Tamiami Trail, North Port. Miller solicits help on a private Facebook page. She responds to “friend” requests.