By LISA CAPOBIANCO
It’s hard for Pat Stebbins to believe that Brian’s Angels began just six months ago.
Brian’s Angels is a movement of concerned citizens dedicated to helping people living homeless in Bristol with love and care. From toiletries to socks and thermal sets to nonperishable food, Brian’s Angels collect a number of items for Bristol homeless. Members of Brian’s Angels also recently participated in the annual Point-in-Time Count, the largest national data collection event on homelessness.
Stebbins, who has also participated in Bristol’s Ending Homelessness Task Group, began Brian’s Angels last August by just passing out water. Since then, the list of donation items has grown, as well as the number of people who want to get involved.
“It almost feels like we’ve been here forever,” said Stebbins, adding how grateful she feels for everyone who has helped out. “I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve all done together in just six months.”
Stebbins began the group to honor her son, Brian Pinz, who passed away just two weeks before his 25th birthday in 1998. Brian experienced a period of homelessness.
Stebbins said the ultimate goal of Brian’s Angels is to make someone feel loved and cared for.
“A lot of my motivation comes from what I went through with my son,” said Stebbins. “It’s about Brian, and the idea of showing a little love.”
Brian’s Angels is not about “hands outs,” but rather “hands ups.” If there is a hole in the Bristol community, the group aims to fill it. Brian’s Angels distributes a number of items that are not in the budgets of local agencies, including Bristol Community Organization, Salvation Army, and more. Once a month, members of the group come together to put together kits of donated items. Those bags are then distributed to the local agencies that need them. The kits also contain information that lists different resources, including the addresses and phone numbers of local agencies, and the meal schedules of local soup kitchens.
Most recently, Brian’s Angels has put together “loving bags” for BCO’s warming center, which opened this past December. These bags include essential items, such as toiletries and snacks.
For Lindsey Rivers, getting involved with Brian’s Angels began while serving the local animal shelter. Rivers, who serves as vice president of Friends of the Bristol Animal Shelter, began her work with Brian’s Angels in November by giving out small bags of donated dog food to homeless individuals who had dogs. Since then, Rivers has branched out her service, helping Brian’s Angels put together bags filled with all kind of items for the homeless.
“People are more than generous to make financial donations or material [items] to donate in the bags,” said Rivers. “People do not hesitate to donate.”
“People are amazing in Bristol,” added Stebbins.
When Rivers began her involvement with Brian’s Angels, she saw 20 bags of items. But as Brian’s Angels becomes more well-known in the community, said Rivers, that number has increased. Last month, the group put together 50 bags of items, in addition to 25 purses for women.
Rivers said social media has played a key role in getting the word out about the mission of Brian’s Angels. As members of the group continue to post about donations that are needed, more people want to help.
“In just six months, we’re already being talked about,” said Rivers, adding how more people are donating their time to put the bags together. “Every month, we’re able to get more bags as people hear about us.”
Rivers said her family also got involved with the group. Her son even returned some of his Christmas gifts in exchange for tents, which was greatly needed for those who had nowhere to sleep.
“It’s a good experience we all have together,” said Rivers. “It makes you appreciate what you have, and not take anything for granted.”
Rivers also recalled how one woman was able to move into an apartment after living without a home for five years. One day, Rivers happened to see the woman picking out furniture for her new place from For Goodness Sake, a non-profit organization that helps people who are transitioning to independent living.
“It was cool to see where she started, down on her luck, and all of a sudden see her at For Goodness Sake, picking out everything that’s going to be in her new apartment,” said Rivers, who is a volunteer of For Goodness Sake.
Rivers said the goal is to see the homeless ultimately living in their own apartments, adding how members of Brian’s Angels have referred the homeless to resources and local agencies they need.
“We don’t want them living outside,” said Rivers. “If we can get them to these resources [like] BCO, [and] For Goodness Sake, then we could help them get to what their ultimate goal is.”
Looking ahead, Stebbins hopes that Brian’s Angels to become a nonprofit organization this year. She also hopes the group will have a permanent location.
“I would love to have a spot where we can set up showers, a washer and dryer,” said Stebbins, adding a web page for the group in currently in the works.
For more information, visit the Brian’s Angels Homeless Outreach page on Facebook.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO