It was a “thing of God” that inspired Pastor Kelvin Lesene to begin Warmth in Wilmington, a nonprofit that serves the homeless population in the city.
“I’m from Wilmington and have lived in the same house my entire life,” Lesene says. “As I got older, my appreciation for the city has grown. It made me the man I am.”
When he started the organization three years ago, it had no name. Lesene simply started collecting donated blankets for those in need. Whenever the trunk of his car got full, he’d drive around to distribute them.
Since then Warmth has expanded to support the homeless with food, clothing, free haircuts, hygiene products and wages for their labor. For two years, the organization has held a Thanksgiving meal as part of the Feed 500 initiative.
In November, Lesene helped the under-funded Rick Van Story Resource Center homeless shelter in Wilmington by hosting Feed 500 there. “I wanted to go in and be the light in the dark time and dark place,” Lesene says. Donations came from across the county, and the nonprofit fed 250 people.
“They were extremely grateful,” says Lesene. “I had one guy stop me and say, ‘Me and my family have lost everything. This has given me hope to not quit.’”
Lesene now plans to expand the work service program that began when Warmth in Wilmington adopted a segment of Governor Prince Boulevard through the Adopt-a-Highway Program last year.
Through that initiative, individuals work alongside volunteers to clean up the highway and earn a wage. Lesene wants this program to include parks and other areas of the city.
He says that Warmth in Wilmington has touched 2 percent of the homeless population in the city. He hopes to increase that to 10 percent by the end of the year “to increase the overall footprint of the people we’re able to help,” he says.
For more information, visit warmthinwilmington.org.