Volunteers join forces to help Orlando's homeless community on Christmas

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, December 25, 2017, 5:35 PM EST

For some, Christmas isn’t just about being with family and friends. It’s about giving back to strangers in need.

  • Volunteers joined forces to help homeless community in Parramore
  • The group later brought Christmas to family in need
  • Group said they're always looking for volunteers

Kimberly Bell spent Christmas morning feeding the homeless in Orlando, setting up shop under the 408 where many homeless in the community.

“I hate to see people go without and just seeing this, it’s like, 'what can I do, how can I help?'" said Kimberly Bell.

It was the first ever event for Bell's new charity, Purple Hands Help Center.

“I just like helping people, I love giving back. I just thought this was the best way of doing it," she said. “I’m trying to open a homeless shelter to help everyone who is in need."

Bell and her family members handed out toiletries and meals to needy people. As they worked, scooping sausage and macaroni, they intermittently burst out into Christmas carols.

But they weren't alone in their charitable endeavors Monday.

Stephanie Bowman and a band of volunteers handed out handmade scarves and hats to homeless in the same spot.

“We looked down, we were getting ready to leave. We were done," said Bowman. “It fills my heart to know we aren’t the only ones down here.”

This spot under the 408 is one that Bowman knows well.

“I was homeless in this area, the Parramore area, almost 19 years ago," she said. “When I was in challenging times in my life, especially when I was homeless, I felt like I didn’t matter.”

In her lowest hour, family services took away her two children. But Bowman got help, gained confidence and years later, started her own non-profit, One Heart for Women and Children.

“We help a lot of families with food, clothes and different household goods. Helping families that are in transition," Bowman said.

After they finished work in Parramore, the all-volunteer group headed to a Carver Shores home to bring Christmas to a family in need.

“I was like, 'What am I going to do when they get up? What am I going to do when I get up? How will I explain his to them?'" said the homeowner, Denise, about her worry of telling her seven children they couldn't afford presents.

Then Bowman and friends arrived, packages in hand, and filled up the living room with colorfully-wrapped gifts.

“I’m in awe and hopeful now, and loved," said Denise, tears welling in her eyes.

Now two women who share the same goal are one step closer to joining forces.

“I hate to see people go without and just seeing this, it’s like what can I do, how can I help?" said Bell.

“We love to laugh with people, we love to feed people," said Bowman. “There’s a lot of love down here, there’s a lot of connection and community.”

On the last Sunday of each month, One Heart for Women and Children serves hot meals to between 200 to 400 people at their Rio Grande Avenue location.

They said that they’re always looking for volunteers and donors.

Click here for more information on One Heart for Women and Children.

To help out Purple Hands Help Center with their goal of assisting the homeless, email PurpleHandsHelpCenter101@yahoo.com.