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Helping the homeless

Ray Barnes has worked with the homeless for about four years.

He volunteers at Shared Blessings in Bonne Terre each Wednesday night.

“It actually started with a church ministry for The Bridge,” Barnes said. “Each little community has their own mission and ours happens to be homeless.”

Barnes works at Freedom Waste for Kenny Chiarelli, Jr. Earlier this fall, Chiarelli opened up the Freedom Waste facility for Barnes to begin collecting clothing donations.

“It started right before the winter came because there was a need for coats and blankets for the homeless in St. Louis,” Barnes said. “It’s a throw-away society. The homeless don’t have washers or dryers, so they basically get clothes, change and throw the dirty ones away.

“When Kenny found out that’s what I was doing and offered to do a clothing drive, it just kind of exploded from there.”

Barnes said they’ve also provided purses with feminine hygiene products for women and backpacks with hygiene products for men.

Chiarelli said Barnes has made multiple trips to St. Louis to deliver items. A few weeks ago, Chiarelli accompanied him on a delivery – bringing not only warm clothing and blankets, but serving hot dogs as well.

Now, the two say they want to help those in the area as well.

“There are (homeless) people up there from Farmington, from Park Hills. I met them. They know Karsch Boulevard,” Chiarelli said. “They lived here, but not enough space for them or resources.”

In recent weeks the two said about  a dozen families came to the business to obtain Christmas gifts for their families.

Chiarelli is developing a not-for-profit called The Hub, a “hand-to-hand” recycling program.

“The blankets that you have or coats that you have that don’t fit … give it to somebody else,” Chiarelli said. “You pay me to take it and I pay a landfill to put it in a hole and it’s perfectly good. We have to be more responsible with our resources, whether it’s clothing or food.

“We’re a trash company with a goal of diverting stuff from the trash.”

Donations can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Freedom Waste office, located at 1131 E. Karsch Blvd. in Farmington.

Staff from Freedom Waste will also pick up donations, if need be. The phone number is 573-747-0550.

Barnes said they are also looking for volunteers to help.

“If we get some dedicated volunteers, we might set up an hour system,” Barnes said. “That way, we could get somebody here from that time, people know when there’s somebody here … we’re trying to get some dedicated volunteers.”

Chiarelli said the area was empty two weeks ago – and, since Christmas, the shelves filled up once again with donated items.

The two said they’ve had their children come in and help sort the donated items – something each said made an impact.

“It’s not about self anymore, it’s about somebody else,” Barnes said. “When you’re not focused on yourself and helping somebody else, you’re not focused on what you don’t have or what you do have. It’s fulfilling and rewarding.”

Ray Barnes sorts through toys delivered to the offices of Freedom Waste on Friday. Barnes has delivered clothing to homeless in St. Louis for about four years. Kenny Chiarelli Jr., Barnes' boss at Freedom Waste, began allowing Barnes space for the donated items. The program has expanded to offering items for free to local residents.

Ray Barnes sorts through toys delivered to the offices of Freedom Waste on Friday. Barnes has delivered clothing to homeless in St. Louis for about four years. Kenny Chiarelli Jr., Barnes’ boss at Freedom Waste, began allowing Barnes space for the donated items. The program has expanded to offering items for free to local residents.

Kenny Chiarelli Jr. carries in a box of donated toys on Friday to the storage area of Freedom Waste. Inspired by Ray Barnes, an employee of Chiarelli's, the company recently started a donation drive with items given away for free to those in need.

Kenny Chiarelli Jr. carries in a box of donated toys on Friday to the storage area of Freedom Waste. Inspired by Ray Barnes, an employee of Chiarelli’s, the company recently started a donation drive with items given away for free to those in need.

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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