GREENSBORO — Michele Forrest was distributing food to homeless men late Sunday night when one man put his double cheeseburger away.
The man told Forrest he was saving his burger for the next morning because his usual breakfast destination, Hospitality House, would be closed.
When Forrest heard that, she set into motion an online effort that brought in food, money and volunteers, all for the cause of serving the city’s homeless.
Hospitality House is the only place in the city that serves breakfast to the homeless. Between 130 and 180 people are there each weekday morning except Wednesdays, and the house also offers an evening community meal every Friday.
Forrest, who goes by the name Cara Michele on a blog she keeps to chronicle the work and path of the homeless in the city, posted a message to get the word out.
“Some friends and I would like to provide breakfast for as many days this week as possible,” she wrote, “and Friday dinner, as well, and we could really use your help.”
Many of the city’s needy follow a schedule dictated largely by what organization is serving what day. If anything changes — if the food runs out or the operation shuts down for the only employee’s vacation — it means one fewer meal for the hungry.
“It just means they don’t have anywhere to eat,” Forrest said. “People pretty much know all the places and times they can eat, and especially the people living outside, they go to the same places to eat every day.”
The response from her blog entry? Donations of cans of stewed tomatoes and green beans, Danish and bread products, checks totaling $450 and the offer of a place to prepare and serve the food.
But more help is needed. The group is serving the first meal at 7 a.m. today on the deck of Grace Community Church on Lee Street.
“Even if they are not homeless, the gap between their income and their housing cost may be so big that they need to go to the food programs to be able to eat,” said Beth McKee-Huger of the Greensboro Housing Coalition. “They want to blend in. They don’t want people to really know how desperate their situation is, but they’ve got to feed their kids and themselves.”
The time crunch she’s operating under doesn’t bother Forrest.
“I’m a last-minute person,” Forrest confessed while plundering through collection bins of donated goods, looking for breakfast items. “That’s my energy.”
“And you just grabbed a big one,” interrupted her friend Tim Hutchinson of the nonprofit Food Not Bombs, who had just come across a stash of oatmeal — though it wasn’t enough for everyone.
Forrest is counting on the community’s goodwill to fill in the gap. Of the donated money, $60 has already been used for 24 gallons of orange juice. Other organizations have donated surplus food, and the Salvation Army has turned over its kitchen to prepare the food.
Any additional money collected over the amount to provide food these next few days will go toward the proposed day center for Greensboro.
Late Wednesday, Forrest and Hutchinson were looking for such items as eggs and bananas, which are popular with the homeless and easy to serve.
“We would so love,” Forrest said, “some free coffee delivered to us.”
Contact Nancy H. McLaughlin at 373-7049