Sunday afternoon, the Waxahachie First United Methodist Church was the venue for a day of family fun that also featured information about those who are homeless. The event, Pie Palooza, was sponsored by the Homeless Coalition of Ellis County.

The festival was the first of hopefully many Pie Paloozas to follow in Ellis County, with coalition member James Bell saying, “These will be held to raise funds to support agencies that serve the homeless and underserved in our local community.”

Pies were the focus of the fundraising and awareness event, with more than 70 offered for sale either as a whole pie or by the slice. The pies, which were of many flavors, were all donated, with some even baked in the church kitchen by volunteers from Daniel’s Den, a local nonprofit that assists the homeless. The Waxahachie High School Culinary Arts students alone donated 30 pecan pies to the festival.

The festival also featured a petting zoo and games for both youngsters and adults, with the favorite game being the pie eating contest that challenged the skills of contestants as they tried to consume their piece of pie without using their hands.

The church fellowship hall held several booths staffed by representatives from support organizations including Hope Clinic, Ministry Cares, Waxahachie CARE and the Family Abuse Center. There were speakers talking on different aspects of the homeless and how to seek help. A silent auction was held that featured art and craft items donated by local artists and businesses, while live music was played by bands for entertainment.

One of the exhibitors was Linda Brook, who lives in her Dodge van and who shared with the Sun, “I live homeless by choice. Some have no choice. I travel all over the United States and live by my faith in God, who is my protector.”

Beside her van, which was packed with all of her personal belongings including two dogs, Brook demonstrated what necessities a person would need to survive and live homeless.

“If you want to see what it is like to live homeless, take the few items that you think you will need and go at least one-hundred miles from home and stay for a month,” Brook said. “You will get an idea what it is like.”

One-hundred-percent of the money raised from Sunday’s Pie Palooza will go to Daniel’s Den, Bell said, saying of the local agency, “They are an emergency shelter in Ellis County and also operate Samaritan House, a transition living program for women, women with children and families with children.”

Speaking on the need for support of programs that aid the homeless, Bell said, “Many city and county governments do not think they have a homeless problem. Yes, they do, and we do have a homeless problem in Ellis County.”

During the homeless count held in Ellis County this past January, 47 individuals were identified as homeless with 99-percent of those unsheltered, Bell said, noting that this included an increase of four in the number of unsheltered youth.

There will be another count this January to provide the county with updated figures so as to apply to the federal government for assistance funds, Bell said, noting that volunteers are needed for the initiative.

To volunteer for the annual homeless count, for which training is provided, or to help with the coalition, visit www.elliscountyhomeless.com.

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