Eugene Minister Helps Homeless from the Back of Pickup Truck Featured

Monday, 27 July 2015 13:22

Editor's note: The following article features Kelly Boyd, who leads the recent church planting in Eugene, Oregon. The article was originally published at The Register Guard and is reprinted here with permission.

Kelly Boyd Ahooga ahoooooga!

The unmistakable sound of a vintage horn on the streets of Eugene signals that the Give One Take One truck is near.

A glimmering metal grill and classic bug-eye headlights catch the sunlight as a stylish black 1937 Chevrolet pickup truck rolls into the Starbucks parking lot at 18th Avenue and Pearl Street.

Passers-by do a double take. Eyes glance up from coffee cups and newspapers.

“Need anything from the truck?” yells a voice from the driver’s seat. “Food? Clothes? Blankets?”

The boisterous engine sputters to a halt, and a couple on the corner put down their cardboard signs and hesitantly approach. Kelly Boyd gets out of the truck. Boyd, a minister, recently moved to Eugene to start a new campus ministry he calls the University Church of Eugene.

“If you see something you want, take it,” Boyd tells the couple. “If you have something to give back, throw something in.”

Valerie Hope rummages through the bin of shirts and jackets, her eyes glowing at the selection. She decides to take three shirts, socks, a jacket, Gatorade and a banana. After thanking Boyd, she returns to her post on the street corner.

“I look at those who are asking as an opportunity for me to give,” Boyd said. “And if I’m blessed with resources, I want to feel like I can give and should give.”

When Boyd moved to Eugene from the Temecula Valley in Southern California six weeks ago, he arrived with his family, his pre-World War II era pickup and, he says, an irresistible desire to give.

Boyd, 54, has always enjoyed working on refurbishing classic vehicles. In the midst of a big move, he wondered what to do with the old truck. Over breakfast one day, he and his friend came up with a solution.

“We were talking about helping the poor and this idea came up,” Boyd explained. “As you’re driving around, people may see it and be able to find some way to be able to give things to them out of the bed of the truck.”

He filled the bed of the truck with boxes of clothes and nonperishable food items, and began driving around his new town everywhere he went: his morning Starbucks run, the campus ministry’s temporary offices at the Phoenix Inn, and then home again, where he leaves the truck parked in front of his house in case donors or anyone in need comes by.

He said he’s pleased when he wakes up some mornings to discover that the contents of the truck bed have been replaced with new items.

Tamara Crafts, a neighbor of Boyd’s, welcomes the idea of the “GOTO” truck and wants it to gain attention. She does not worry about the presence of the truck on her street.

Kelly Boyd Eugene ICOC“We’ve got problems in our neighborhood — this is a solution in our neighborhood,” she said.

Crafts has not donated items to the truck yet, but she has a box started and a few contribution ideas to collect.

“I’ve got some zucchini,” she said with a laugh.

Boyd hopes to use the distinctive appearance of his truck to gain attention for the GOTO program and encourage people to participate.

In the parking lot at Starbucks, Jeff Wyman stopped in admiration to snap photos of the truck.

“It looks so cool and reminds me of old vehicles my friends had years ago,” Wyman said.

As a newcomer to the Eugene area, Boyd acknowledges that a few unforeseen challenges have arisen amidst the mostly positive feedback he said the GOTO program has received.

“I’ve learned that the homeless situation is very, very complicated, very diverse, many facets as to why people are there,” he said.

A woman approached him at Monroe Park last week with concerns, Boyd said. She said she viewed the program as a way to enable people to stay homeless and attract them to public spaces where people are making an effort to improve neighborhood safety.

The woman told Boyd that she would rather see efforts focused on programs that offer incentives, such as food and shelter in exchange for staying clean and sober.

Boyd said he’s sensitive to such concerns. “As a parent, you want to be able to take your child to a park and not have to worry about their safety,” he said.

But Boyd said he also sees value in his efforts, and hopes others in the community will be inspired to do the same.

“Life’s about giving,” he said. “When you take your eyes off yourself, life is a lot better.”

Read more: Eugene, Oregon: A One Year Challenge City | 3 Churches Unite to Plant Eugene, Oregon

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