Mobile access partnership visits Oakland New Life Church


Matthew L. Self

We’re here to help: Volunteers from the Topeka Rescue Mission, Valeo Behavioral Health Care, KDHE, Positive Connections and the Oakland New Life Church gather for a group photo in front of a mobile shower and laundry facility provided by Valeo. They hope that their actions will make a change for the better in the community.

A hot shower, clean clothes, basic medical care, running water, a friendly face.

These are things taken for granted by many.

For those who decided to visit the Oakland New Life Church on a cloudy Tuesday morning, the volunteers from the Mobile Access Partnership were a welcome sight.

Six churches in Topeka have pulled together along with several local organizations in a collaborative effort referred to as MAP, a part of the Topeka Rescue Mission, to help people who are homeless or impoverished by giving them access to some of the basic services and facilities we take for granted each day.

“That’s why we came out here,” said Hope Kuenzi, daughter of Oakland New Life’s Pastor, Jason Kuenzi. “We wanted to help to reach out to the homeless people so that they know that they’re loved.”

Helping hands: (From left to right) Faith, Jason and Hope Kuenzi stand in front of a trailer at Lundgren school. They showed up on Tuesday to help homeless people in the local community.

The appearance of the volunteers gathered in the parking lot of the closed-down school Lundgren, which sits near the Oakland New Life Church, was a welcome sight for some of Oakland’s residents.

One of the more prominent mobile facilities present that day was a trailer with bathrooms, shower facilities and a washer and dryer for clothes that needed cleaning which was provided by Valeo Behavioral Health Clinic.

One of the volunteers present this past Tuesday who was running the Valeo trailer was Jenny Falk, Executive Assistant at TRM and the MAP Site Captain. Falk said that she wanted to do more hands-on work with the homeless.

“As executive assistant, I didn’t have much engagement with the homeless population,” said Falk. “So I just saw this as a great opportunity to utilize the gifts I have and then have the opportunity to engage a little bit more with the homeless population.”

Sitting nearby was another trailer with donated clothes and shoes gathered and sorted courtesy of Oakland New Life Church. Other members of the church sat nearby handing out schedules and other items.

The twin daughters of the nearby church’s pastor, Hope and Faith, managed the donated clothes and shoes, having organized them in preparation for the day.

“I think it’s important to help people out here because I know a lot of people out here don’t have a lot of stuff that most people do,” said Faith Kuenzi. “So I felt like it was good to help people that don’t have a lot out here.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was also present with a trailer of their own that offered some basic medical treatment and COVID testing for those in need.

Positive Connections, which was offering rapid testing for HIV and other STIs, was also on-site handing out contraceptives.

“We just really want to make a connection to the population that might be at risk of infections and HIV, but that maybe don’t have the opportunity to go to a primary care physician or don’t have insurance,” said Michelle Grutsch, a volunteer at the Positive Connections table. “Just want to try to prevent any kind of illness that we can and try to keep the population healthy.”

This ongoing effort by TRM and MAP is expected to continue throughout the rest of the year with more church’s signing on with the program.

At the moment, MAP has a schedule of the sites it will be showing up at over the summer along with the dates and times.

The current list of locations that the group will be showing up at regularly this summer is the St. John African Methodist Epsicopal Church (701 SW Topeka Blvd.), Fellowship Hi-Crest (Avondale East, 455 Golf Park), Family of God (1231 NW Eugene), New Beginnings Baptist Church (1329 SW 37th), Oakland New Life (1020 NE Forest Ave.), Grace Point (5400 SW Huntoon) and First Lutheran (1234 SW Fairlawn).

It is expected that other organizations will sign on with MAP in the future such as the Topeka Police Department as part of its community outreach program.

Homelessness is an issue that can be reversed, and it starts with volunteers like Pastor Jason Kuenzi and his congregation.

“I think it’s a great program,” said Kuenzi. “I think more people should come out and get involved and to see this maybe even be more fruitful around the city of Topeka.”

Edited by: Crystal Hendrix and Madison Dean