Fort Worth

‘It’s a story of their love.’ Homeless outreach event helps needy on Christmas Day

Burleson Church homeless outreach serves over a hundred Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, more than 100 homeless people on East Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth, TX stopped by the OpenDoor Homeless Outreach event to receive clothing, fresh food and basic necessities.
Up Next
On Christmas Day, more than 100 homeless people on East Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth, TX stopped by the OpenDoor Homeless Outreach event to receive clothing, fresh food and basic necessities.

One night in the 1980s, 19-year-old Troy Brewer brought his date, Leanna, to an empty lot on East Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth.

Sitting in the back of his pickup truck, Brewer played his guitar for her. He sang to her songs about Jesus Christ.

The people nearby, most of them homeless, came closer to listen. Brewer and Leanna continued to go back to that spot to feed whoever they could.

Fast-forward to 2018, Troy and Leanna are now Mr. and Mrs. Brewer. Today he’s better known as Pastor Troy of OpenDoor Church of Burleson, which they founded together.

For the last 32 years, the Brewers have returned to that same lot every year on Christmas for their Homeless Outreach event where members of the congregation and other local volunteers give out clothes, food and basic necessities to anyone who stops by.

“On Christmas Day it means to get out and demonstrate Jesus by blessing somebody, loving somebody, saying thank-you to somebody,” Brewer said. “I love seeing people bring their families out here and teaching this to their children.”

At the entry, volunteers handed out plastic bags so visitors could carry their items. Four rows of tables were lined with donated men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, socks and shoes. Along the inner perimeter of the lot was a buffet that started with women volunteers handing out plastic tupperware to folks in line. They offered hot chili, bread, packaged salads and cupcakes.

IMG_5016 3.jpg
Cheryl Burrow, a special education teacher in Lake Dallas ISD, wear one of the one hundred scarves she crocheted for donation. Each scarf has a label that honors her late son who died in a car accident in 2012. Hanaa' Tameez

Cheryl Burrow, a special education teacher in the Lake Dallas ISD, has come to the Homeless Outreach event before. She brings with her more than 100 scarves crocheted by hand. Each one has a label that reads “In loving memory of Lucas Tate Burrow,” her 17-year-old son who died in a car accident in 2012.

“I didn’t have a soap box to stand on like some mothers do because the authorities couldn’t tell me why he had a car accident, it was a one-car accident,” Burrow said. “I took up crochet to not have to think about the loss of my son and I thought, ‘What can I do with my crochet to honor him?’”

By 2 p.m., just one hour after the event had started, Burrow had only a single scarf left.

Kyp Shilliam does community outreach work for the church. She said the event is almost like a story of Troy and Leanna’s love.

She also explained that not everyone who comes to the event is living on the street. Some might be living in homes in severe or poor conditions, such as without heat or running water. They welcome everyone, she said, and they don’t ask questions about the extent of someone’s need.

Mary, 63, has been homeless for the last eight months. She declined to give her last name and details are sparse.

She said her ex-boyfriend had tried to kill her, so she left his house. She’s been living in a tent near Main Street for a couple of months.

For Lauren Kinney, 19, and her brother, Conner, 15, they said that spending time helping others on Christmas Day was the least that they could do for their community. They set up a shoe stall and helped men and women pick out their sizes and styles they liked.

When one woman couldn’t find a pair in her size, Lauren offered her own. Conner had done the same for a man earlier in the afternoon.

“What a cool opportunity to show people love on Christmas,” Lauren said.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Hanaa’ Tameez is the diversity reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She covers race, class, culture and identity in Tarrant County. In 2017, Hanaa’ graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism with a master’s degree in bilingual journalism. She speaks English, Spanish and Urdu.