Black Friday is one of the largest retail events of the year, and while most across the country is wading through crowds of people, a Homer woman is undoubtedly serving up the best deals. Casey Marsh puts on the Black Friday Giveaway in Homer, an event for people in need of warm clothes, toys for the kids or even a haircut.
Marsh founded the Homeless, Hungry and Hopeful for a senior project three years ago to raise awareness for homelessness in the Homer area.
“Senior year I did a campout to kind of raise awareness for what homeless people have to go through and we had a lot of people sleep outside. By a lot, I mean like five people,” Marsh said laughing. “I didn’t feel like we reached anybody, and that same year I thought about doing a Black Friday giveaway and giving things away on Black Friday.”
Marsh nicknamed the community group the Triple Hs and kept the giveaway going after she graduated.
The event has gained traction. The first year it attracted about 20 people, but last year that number shot up to over 100.
Shortly after the doors opened for its third year on Friday afternoon, it quickly became clear word had gotten out. About 20 people quickly began picking through stacks of donated items in the Homer Elks Lodge’s basement as Christmas music played in the background.
“We’ve collected mostly winter clothes, gloves, coats, scarves. Those were the main needs because it is winter and it is cold in Alaska,” Marsh explained. “Outside of that, we also accepted sleeping bags, toiletries, blankets, shoes, just regular street clothes and toys. Toys are always great because it’s the time of Christmas, and we’re not going to lie, what do kids want? They want toys.”
Sarah Castro said that’s exactly what her kids want. Castro just moved to Homer and she said she needs to keep her boys occupied when they arrive in a week.
“Boy toys for the most part, some superheroes and anything that will last the winter of being stuck inside,” Castro said.
Others were also tracking down items for their children. Marche Bender was hunting for winter clothes for her family. Bender said the event saves her from buying costly winter wear her kids outgrow every year.
“I mean that’s what we do. We save all our outgrown stuff and we donate here every year. It’s so much easier when they’re little. They grow so fast,” Bender added.
Others were just looking for useful items. Pete Zollars said he works outside a lot and he also does his fair share of camping.
“Clothing for the field. A sleeping bag would be handy and so forth since I do a lot of camping. Like I said, it’s like a Christmas gift come early,” Zollars said as he picked through items.
All these items are completely free and available to anyone who came in, but it’s not just about clothes and toys. Those looking for a fresh look also found what they needed. Holly Keintz is a local hairstylist. She started giving free haircuts at the event last year and hoped on board again this year.
“It’s a service I can give, whether you can’t afford it, just don’t do it or whatever. So, it’s a nice service to be able to offer some people,” she said.
This is the result Marsh is looking for. She said the event has attracted people from all walks of life and she notes that smiles from fellow community members makes it all worth it.
“It’s the best feeling to see somebody smile because they’re getting things that they wouldn’t normally be able to, such as nice winter coats,” Marsh said. “Last year we raffled off bikes that we were able to give away. Those are things people can’t always get, especially when they’re tight with money.”