For the ninth year, a group of Park City residents—supported by many local contributors—welcomed the new year by helping those less fortunate. KPCW’s Emily Means has this report.
Warm coats hung on makeshift clothes racks, while pots of chili and soup simmered on a camp stove in Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park Tuesday, during an annual ritual by some Park City residents to reach out to the homeless population.
The event, organized by Park City Ski and Snowboard development coach and private chef Dar Hendrickson, brought in dozens of people living in shelters or camps around the Rio Grande/Pioneer Park neighborhood in downtown Salt Lake. This is the ninth year Hendrickson and other Park City locals have trekked to the area on New Year’s Day to provide food and cold-weather clothing to those in need. He began the tradition when a news story about people charitably feeding homeless people under the viaduct in Salt Lake inspired him to do the same.
“I decided one year to come do it. I made one bulk pot of chili, and I had a few coats," Hendrickson said. "My daughter, my wife and her niece came, so it was just the four of us, and I found a certain satisfaction in helping somebody else with things that I have plenty of.”
Throughout the year, Hendrickson collects hats, gloves, coats and bags, many of them left over from the Park City Ski Swap, and sets them out for the taking. Guests are encouraged to grab what they need--and also to warm up with a cup of coffee, a hot bowl of soup and baked goods donated by Mike Holm, owner of The Market at Park City.
A variety of homeless services providers are located in the neighborhood, including the Road Home Shelter and the St. Vincent DePaul Dining Hall. James, who’s been homeless for 18 months, says it means more to him when individuals directly reach out than when he utilizes those established resources.
“Service-oriented people like this do far more to raise the spirits of the people down here than the services that are here, as hard as they try," he said.
After knowing Hendrickson for decades, Kamas resident PJ Spalding volunteered at the New Year’s Day event for the first time last year. This time, he arrived early with Hendrickson to help set up.
“These are people that really don’t have anything. To see them and to see how happy they are, and to see these coats that were left at the ski swap and to see them going someplace that’s good--these people really need it, especially when you see them walking around this time of year,” Spalding said.
Last year, the state of Utah took on the issue of homelessness through Operation Rio Grande and funding for new homeless resource centers, with then-House Speaker Greg Hughes, a Republican from Draper, declaring it an issue that doesn’t belong only to the Capital City. In a similar spirit, Hendrickson thinks it’s important for people who aren’t as familiar with the issue to come and see what’s happening.
“Living in Park City, there are some people with more than most people need. You sometimes feel that way in Park City, and personally this just makes me appreciate all that I have, that we have.”
To participate in next year’s event, Hendrickson says you can contact him directly.