AP NEWS

Ex-homeless woman doles out free meals to needy in Indiana

January 6, 2020 GMT

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — A 70-year-old woman who was once homeless is leading an effort to help others who are enduring similar financial hardships by giving away thousands of free sack lunches in a central Indiana city.

Linda Butler said she hands out hundreds of sandwiches to people riding the trolleys in downtown Kokomo on the last Friday of every month, and she has done so since October 2018.

“We give it to them because I know they’re the ones who need it,” Butler told the Kokomo Tribune of the outreach effort she named Feed My People. “I’ve lived on the street before, and I know the kinds of things those people need.”

Butler said she had wanted to help those struggling to make ends meet for some years but never had the money or resources to do it. However, that changed when she met a woman named Gale Williams. After they talked, Williams agreed to purchase the supplies for Butler to make sandwiches to hand out to the needy.

Then others joined the effort. Kay French, 69, met Butler at church and decided to help make the sandwiches and contribute money for the outreach.

The notion of feeding the hungry resonated with French because of her childhood. French said she knows her mother regularly went without food so she and her nine siblings could eat.

“I saw my mother put food on the table. Sometimes it wasn’t much,” she said. “But she’d just watch and we’d ask, ‘Mom, aren’t you going to eat?’ She’d just say she wasn’t hungry … Because of my experience, I knew I wanted to help. To get involved in something like this was a no-brainer for me.”

Butler and French meet at Kokomo Manor every month to make 50 peanut butter and 50 bologna sandwiches. Another volunteer adds in a bag of chips. In December, they began including a small candy bar and some mints.

Clara Idle, a dispatcher at the trolley station who has witnessed the outreach, said it is inspiring to see Butler give bus riders free sandwiches.

“I think the people appreciate it,” Idle said. “She’s trying to help as much as she possibly can and give back to the community.”