Kamryn’s Outreach Club
Although Kamryn Yanchick lives a middle-class life in Edmond, she is not immune to the challenges of poverty. She is steeped in the knowledge that one generation ago, her mother was raised in a 100-year-old house that was falling apart. Rats infested the neighborhood. No one had hot water. Some neighbors found it safer to sleep outside in the yard than under a caving roof.
Instead of running from her past, Kamryn’s mother instilled in her children to be grateful for their present comforts. The Yanchick family regularly returns to their now-abandoned lot in inner-city Oklahoma City. It is a reminder and a lesson: give back by helping the less fortunate.
“My great-grandmother was a full-blood Native American who barely spoke English. She washed clothes in order to feed her seven children, but she would always invite needy people to dinner—even if it was just beans,” Kamryn said.
Since Kamryn’s childhood, her family and extended family have had the monthly tradition of getting together at the old house to hand out sandwiches to the homeless people in the area. “I didn’t realize it was abnormal to say, ‘Let’s go buy snacks and pass stuff out.’ It never seemed inspiring to me—it’s just what we did.”
Then, a lightbulb came on for Kamryn. Her mother passed through the old neighborhood on the way home from a Girl Scout camping trip. Kamryn remembers seeing a woman freezing in a thin coat. She urged her mom to stop the car.
“I handed the woman my new, insulated sleeping bag and everything else I could find in the car to give her. That night, I worried about where that poor woman was sleeping,” Kamryn said. “That’s when I understood why my family helps the homeless.”
Kamryn is now a senior at Santa Fe High School. After reading a true story during English about a homeless man and an upper class man forming a friendship, Kamryn talked to her teacher about inviting some students to join her family in handing out food. She was pleased by the interest of her fellow classmates. One month, over fifty teenagers arrived to pass out sack lunches. One cold weekend, a handful of students insisted on showing up—eager to help, despite the cold.
For safety, the family has ground rules. They recently moved their operation to a parking lot near the City Rescue Mission. Men escort the students as they walk around asking people if they need anything. They don’t door-knock, and they know which areas to avoid.
“Mostly, these people are just grateful. When you give them something, they say, ‘God bless you.’ I especially remember a lady named Margie who started crying and telling us how scary her life was. It was so heartbreaking that we all started crying. My classmates were shocked to hear how homeless people live.”
This fall, Kamryn approached her school about forming a Homeless Outreach Club. She easily acquired the minimum requirement of 25 signatures from interested classmates, and 33 people showed up for the club’s first meeting in October. Kamryn appreciates their giving spirit and hopes the club will carry on after she graduates. Regardless, she knows that she’s in the helping-the-homeless business for life!
“Although I am fortunate to have never known the struggles of hunger or cold, I am not blind to its harshness,” Kamryn said. “My life has been paved by generations of hard workers and strong, selfless women who have motivated me to honor my roots. I’ll definitely be raising my own children someday to carry on this tradition. I’m glad there are other people who want to join me in impacting others.”