Every few days for the past two weeks, Windsor resident Joseph Antone has loaded up his red pick-up truck with food, water, fruit and other essential supplies.
With the help of his friends and family — including his four daughters — Antone has been visiting sites across the city to provide the supplies for people experiencing homelessness, hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had a situation happen where we had some extra food so we brought it downtown because we all know downtown has those people that are struggling right now,” Antone said. “We said let’s give it to them, they’ll appreciate it.”
During that first run, Antone and his family packed 111 brown paper bags with sandwiches to provide to those in need. His daughters wrote inspirational messages on the bags themselves.
“I knew that if I had family or a relative out there, I would hope [people] would stop to help them,” Antone said, adding that one of the people he helped pulled him aside and told him that the message on the bag meant more than the contents inside.
In a way, Antone and his family know what it’s like for people to receive help when they’re most in need.
Last Thanksgiving, they lost their home in a house fire, relying on the help of family and friends to get by.
“The outpouring of that was tremendous,” he said.
Though the Antones have been staying with family for the past seven months, he said his own experiences were only one reason why he decided to help.
The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his desire to teach his daughters to be kind, courteous and neighbourly, also played a part.
“You can tell your kids you’re supposed to be kind, you’re supposed to look out for your neighbour, you’re supposed to treat your brothers and sisters equally, but to show them, you can’t teach that at school,” Antone said. “You can’t put that in a book.”
Antone said friends have also joined him in handing out supplies — some even providing a six-foot-long folding table to ensure everyone involved is able to safely hand out and receive help.
“[It’s] like a craft table they use at craft shows,” he said. “They fold in half and then they fold in half again.”
Thanks to that table and a donation of money, cups and coffee, Antone was able to recently hand out hot beverages.
“I can’t express enough how much that little cup just meant to them,” he said. “It was donated to give, so we give and they loved it.”
As of Wednesday, however, Antone said budget restrictions mean he and others can only afford to make the trips every other day.
Though he plans on continuing to help for as long as he can, he said grocery store gift cards and supplies like blankets and pillows are welcome.
“Everybody needs a blanket right now,” he said.
Antone said Windsorites can help by treating people experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect.
“A man had told us that somebody had wanted to donate something to him, and I believe it was money in a Ziploc baggie,” Antone said. “He said the person … drove up to him … and he threw it at him, threw it on the ground.”
“That’s got to stop.”
Antone said he understands that people are worried about COVID-19, but added that there are better ways of avoiding coronavirus.
“If you see the truck … come on up, throw something in the truck, that’s fine too,” he said.
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