Since 1990, people from all around the Glass City area have come together in the spirit of generosity and caring for Tent City — the local charity organization 1Matters’ annual event held to provide aid to the area’s homeless. The 2015 edition of the event will take place October 23-25 at the Civic Center Mall in downtown Toledo.
The festivities begin with the Parade of Compassion, from Promenade Park to the Tent City, at 6pm on Friday, October 23— kicking off a weekend committed to generosity toward others.
“We provide services such as clothing— we have a huge clothing tent where individuals can stock up on any winter clothes they need,” said Abigail Dudek, Tent City Coordinator. “We also provide medical services, from mammograms [and] pap smears to general physicians, eye doctors [and] dental [care]… [as well as] social services.”
“Each year, it’s always beautiful, just because the entire community comes together to serve those in need,” said Ken Leslie, the event’s founder and self-described advocate-in-chief. “What’s spectacular about [Tent City] is [the] unity – Mercy, Promedica, and UTMC come together to provide medical services.”
Something just snapped
Tent City began 25 years ago as the Homeless Awareness Project. Leslie was touring America as a stand-up comedian. He heard some statistics about the homelessness epidemic that hit close to his heart.
“I had been homeless at one time,” Leslie said. “But when I read the statistics in a United Way study [I found out that] 60% of the homeless in Toledo are families and children—and something just snapped. I said, ‘Guys, let’s do something.’ We brought together the community, and Tent City was formed.”
Over the next quarter-century, the event has blossomed into an annual weekend where hundreds of donors and volunteers come together to serve over 1,000 individuals seeking assistance.
A more focused effort
This year, Dudek said, efforts have been much more focused on filling the specific needs of those who attend.
“We kind of had a change in mindset [with] planning this year, to go after the things that we want to provide, and not just the things that are convenient to provide,” Dudek said. “It’s definitely taken a little more planning ahead of time, more time to get everything in order. But it’s also reassuring knowing what we’re going to have for that weekend, where before it’s been like, whatever’s there, that’s what we can give.”
That spirit of giving is at the heart of the event, providing great joy. There will be live musical entertainment Friday and Saturday night, including musicians Dave Carpenter, Willie Rough and Hand Hewn. Barriers are being broken down, allowing for participants to see one another in a new light.
“Every year, people come down saying that they’ll volunteer Friday night— maybe they’ll serve food— and every year we have people who just come down to serve food and they end up staying the whole weekend. Staying the night, being side-to-side and arm-in-arm with people that they would have [otherwise] overlooked on the streets,” Dudek said.
“The best thing that has happened are the lives that are shared and changed at Tent City. It’s really not about the event, it’s about the individuals themselves,” Leslie said.
For a full schedule of events or to learn how to volunteer, visit 1matters.org/tentcity