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Non-profit group panhandles around the Valley to help feed the homeless

Posted: 8:39 PM, Nov 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-24 23:12:25-05

You might have noticed large groups of "panhandlers" at intersections throughout the Valley on Friday.  

They are panhandlers with a cause, all part of a non-profit group called the Purpose Movement, and their goal is to feed 5,000 people in December.

Shannon Gillette, an organizer with the group, said the Purpose Movement offers a one of a kind volunteer experience. 

The project offered volunteers an opportunity to stand together in teams on the street corners and walk in the footsteps of the community experiencing homelessness. The goal was not only to raise funds to feed the homeless, but also to raise awareness about the thousands of men, women, and children who are in need.

"There are starving people in our community. There are 25,000 homeless people in Maricopa County, and 30 percent of those are families. I mean there are kids that go to bed hungry each night," said Gillette.

The group had been around for two years. Volunteers included many members from Rock Point Church, several East Valley high schools and businesses as well.

"Today we've had 300 people out on street corners. These guys have been out here since 8 a.m just to raise money to feed the homeless and those in need," said Gillette.

One of those volunteers was 16-year old high school student Gage Marr. His group alone raised $1,000 from generous motorists who passed by the group standing at the Loop-202 and San Tan Village Parkway exit.

Marr said standing out there gave him a sense of what panhandlers go through every day.

"I saw people put their heads down when they saw us, avoiding all eye contact, some pretending they're on their phone. Now I know what it feels like," said Marr.

Volunteers said they were not there to judge why some homeless chose to panhandle over getting jobs.

Their goal was to raise awareness about being homeless, and acknowledging that every homeless person out there had a story that led them toward life on the streets.

"I used to be guilty of judging the homeless. Oh, why don't you get a job, why are you panhandling? When you get to know the homeless community, you know we're called to love everyone and not to judge people," said Gillette.

The group collectively raised more than enough money to feed over 5,000 people this December.  Gillette said they worked with shelters and food banks that already worked on providing meals to people in need.

Gillette said Purpose Project Inc. is a registered non-profit 501c3. The pizza chain Dominos had partnered with the group and agreed to become their primary food provider. Volunteers will be delivering Dominos pizzas with healthy toppings that included chicken and vegetables in hot bags throughout December until 5,000 people are fed.

The group said they were also "panhandling" online. To volunteer or donate, click here.