Every Sunday, you can find a group of people cooking and packing white styrofoam to-go boxes under the North Boulevard overpass. The magic starts around 9 a.m., after ingredients are unloaded. Amid conversations and gospel music playing over the speakers, vegetables are chopped, beans are soaked, and meat is prepared. While the cooking takes place, other volunteers sort clothing, toiletries, and necessities. Men, women, and children walk up and form a line, saying hello as they approach. This is a typical Love Out Loud Sunday, hosted by It Takes a Village BR.
Nearly three years ago, some friends gathered together to feed the homeless under the overpass. They pooled their resources and made a meal. Kirk B. was a part of that first Sunday. “I’d seen people on the street before, but never at this capacity. The first time it was over 300.” The group showed up for a few weeks. Some got discouraged when thinking about their finances and the time commitment. Kirk decided to keep it going. “We cooked a good meal and brought toothbrushes, clothes, and other toiletries. I thought, ‘You can’t let this stop no matter what.’ It was like we were filling a void. The least I could do was once a week.”
Since then, It Takes a Village BR has maintained a faithful presence in their downtown spot, offering hope and love to everyone in need. Kirk has story after story of impactful moments with individuals. He shares, “I met a mother of three who was sleeping under the bridge with her kids. She wouldn’t take anything unless it was for her kids. This is a reality that we overlook. We see it, but we really don’t see it. It’s like an invisible monster.”
In encountering such poverty, Kirk’s life has changed. A tattoo artist by trade, he declares, “This isn’t my job, but it’s my purpose. I don’t want to be paid for it.” His commitment to It Takes a Village BR is unwavering even though it’s a role he never could have imagined. He credits the many volunteers for the ongoing success.
The process for a Love Out Loud Sunday is still the same as those first few weekends. It Takes a Village BR contributors pool their money, purchase food, and they show up ready to cook for around 200 people or sort donations. The chef is actually a former homeless man from the early days of It Takes a Village BR. “After we helped him, he dedicated his life to helping everybody else,” says Kirk. Everyone is welcome to show up and help out on Sundays, no matter who you are. Kirk shares, “Come out and experience it, and then you’ll find your place. You don’t have to come every Sunday, but you’ll always be a part if you do come. No matter what your talent is, it could make a difference. We have people who come and pray for people. It’s way more than food and money that will help a person. Sometimes they just need a word.”
As It Takes a Village BR has grown in notoriety, the group has become active in changing the city’s perception of homelessness. “It isn’t a specific gender, race, or age group. It really doesn’t take much to help someone get back on their feet. People lack support systems when they fall, which is the number one cause of homelessness.”
It Takes a Village BR is now reaching beyond their Love Out Loud Sundays and helping to house individuals. Through their consistent kindness, they have attracted attention from the city’s officials. Mayor Sharon Broome and her team have worked with It Takes a Village BR to put programs in place to open up housing opportunities for the homeless. Kirk’s most recent goal is to assist in transitions for those newly housed.
The mission of It Takes a Village BR is to show love to one another. “I want people to get back in touch with the community. We’re all in this together,” Kirk says. ■