Kevin Pryor had one goal when he was homeless that was even more important than finding shelter for the night: Never letting on to his children that he had nowhere to go.
He admits his addiction to alcohol left him without a home, but he worked hard at not letting his homelessness show.
"I was living in my car and would shave and clean up every day at a McDonald's or Hardee's or at the local Go-Mart," he said. "I would go to the library and use the computers to go on Facebook and contact my children. They didn't know their dad was homeless."
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Takoda Miller, 7, of Marietta receives a dish of applesauce from Marietta College junior Jessica St. Clair at the Daily Bread Kitchen Wednesday during the college’s second annual Hunger and Homelessness Week.
Pryor was one of several people who told their stories to Marietta College students Wednesday during a "Faces of Homelessness" panel that is part of a week's worth of activities designed to increase aware of hunger and homelessness in the local community.
Earlier in the day, more than 100 people were served a hot lunch prepared by Marietta College students at the Daily Bread Kitchen in the Harmar district Wednesday as part of the college's Office of Civic Engagement second annual Hunger and Homelessness Week activities.
"This is really a wonderful thing. So many people in this area wouldn't otherwise have had a good meal today," said Glenda Williams, of Marietta, who attended the lunch with some family members.
Marietta College's Office of Civic Engagement second annual Hunger and Homelessness Week activities for students continue through Sunday:
Students are invited to participate in a 24-hour fast from all meals beginning at 1 p.m. today through Friday.
A sleep out for students, emphasizing the need for shelter faced by many homeless, begins at 9 p.m. today in the Kremer Amphitheatre.
A food insecurity community resource trolley tour for students from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday.
A candlelight vigil, commemorating those who have lost their lives to hunger or homelessness will take place at 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the Kremer Amphitheatre. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend.
To volunteer to serve during the every-Wednesday Daily Bread Kitchen in the Knights of Columbus Hall on Franklin Street, contact Flo Eckstein at (740) 581-0929.
Area emergency shelters
Cornerstone Ministries, 27375 State Route 7, Reno - 374-5831 (call first, leave message if no answer)
Salvation Army shelter, 534 Fifth St., Parkersburg - (304) 485-4529
EVE Inc., Marietta (for victims of domestic violence only) - 374-5819
Other homeless assistance:
Washington-Morgan Community Action Agency, 281 Putnam St., Marietta - 373-3745.
Free help for people facing home foreclosure (no income limitation): 1-800-837-2630 Southeastern Ohio Legal Services.
Mid Ohio Valley Fellowship Home, 1030 George Street, Parkersburg - (304) 485-3341
Good Works, Inc., Athens - (740) 594-3339
Source: Times research.
The Daily Bread Kitchen has been serving community meals at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Franklin Street every Wednesday since January 2011, according to Flo Eckstein, who helps coordinate the weekly meals through the St. Mary's Catholic Church Health Ministry program.
"The first meal we served about 50 or so," she said. "Last week we served 229, including carry-out meals, and today we're expecting to serve around 275 with the take-out meals included."
Eckstein said she sees many needy people coming through the food lines.
"We have several who are living out of their vehicles or are out on the street," she said. "We try to refer them to other ministries that can help."
Eckstein said several Marietta College students volunteer to help serve meals throughout the year, but on Wednesday more than 25 students worked from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to prepare and serve the community lunch as part of Hunger and Homelessness Week.
"The main purpose of the week is to spread awareness about hunger and homelessness in general, but also focusing on our local community," said student coordinator Drew Schulte, a senior from the Cleveland area.
Schulte took on the responsibility by himself during last year's initial Hunger and Homelessness Week, but this year he was one of four student coordinators for the event.
"It's sometimes hard to convey the message to busy college students that hunger and homelessness exists in our local community," Schulte said. "But this week we're hitting them on all fronts, including preparing and serving this meal today. There are many other activities, too, like a daily email challenge to live the day without something that a homeless person might have to live without."
The "A Day in the Life Challenge," sponsored by Sigma Kappa, encourages participants to endure a week-long simulation of what it would be like to be homeless. Students signed up to receive daily emails with instructions on how they would be living that day.
"Our volunteer base of 25 students to prepare and serve meals today is an indication of how participation in Hunger and Homelessness Week has grown since our first event last year," said Amanda Dever, coordinator for the Office of Civic Engagement. "And we want to see it continue in the years ahead. The goal is to create a dialogue between the college and community that can help address issues facing Marietta and surrounding areas."
Wednesday night the campus Shake America organization sponsored the panel discussion on "The Faces of Homelessness" in the Alma McDonough Auditorium.
The panelists included Patrice Pooler, executive director, Kim Caplinger, and Pryor from the Mid Ohio Valley Fellowship Home in Parkersburg as well as Andrea Horsch, acting director, and Jim Todd, transformation station manager with Good Works, Inc., in Athens.
Both facilities provide services and programs designed to help the homeless get back on their feet.
"The people I work with look like you and they look like me," Pooler said. "But for various reasons they've gone from the top of the pile to the bottom of the pile. And one thing I've learned is that homelessness and addiction crosses all boundaries. We take in people from Yale and from jail."
Caplinger said she first became homeless after being kicked out of a relative's house in January 2010 due to substance abuse. She and her children moved in with her parents for a short time, but it wasn't working out, so she left the children and ran.
"I went from couch to couch for some time, then went to the Salvation Army where you could stay overnight but had to leave at 7:30 a.m. and couldn't go back inside until dinner time at 5 p.m.," Caplinger said. "It was December and cold-I picked a bad tome to be homeless. It was tough. I was bumming cigarettes, and I missed my kids. My mother would bring them to visit me at the Salvation Army."
Eventually she had to leave the Salvation Army shelter, but that same day she was accepted into the Fellowship Home where Caplinger received the recovery help she needed.
"I've been 16 months sober now, I 'm working and have a house for me and my kids," she said.
Pryor said his car eventually broke down, leaving him without transportation or a place to sleep.
"I began sleeping under a truck loading dock," he said, but still tried to maintain the appearance that he wasn't homeless.
Pryor said he had been attending a church near the truck loading docks and had helped distribute food and frozen turkeys to needy people, but didn't let on he was in need himself.
"It was about 20 degrees one night and it was cold under the docks," he said. "Then I remembered the turkeys we handed out came in thick cardboard boxes that we threw away."
Pryor dug the boxes out of the trash and fashioned a shelter in which he could sleep, although rest was difficult in the intense cold.
"But I would clean up at a store the next day, then wander the streets, hoping for enough change to buy a $1 hamburger," he said.
His alcoholism continued, and one night in January 2011 someone called the police and reported Pryor for public intoxication.
While he was being booked he finally admitted his homelessness and asked if a bed was available for the night.
Pryor was also taken into the Fellowship Home where he's been recovering his life.
"Becoming homeless was my fault, but there were people and angels watching over me," he said. "I've changed a lot over the last year, and I've learned to be very grateful for what I have-a warm bed, a shower-it's not much, but I'm getting back on my feet and I'm very thankful."