Wrap Up Missouri heads downtown to help Columbia homeless

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COLUMBIA - Many of Columbia's homeless bundled up in some new clothes to keep warm on this year's cold Valentine's Day. 

Missouri Pay it Forward aimed to help those in need with a new event on Saturday at Faith Baptist Church called "Wrap Up Missouri."

The purpose was to distribute jackets, gloves, scarves, hats and other warm items donated from residents to Columbia's homeless population around town to protect them from the freezing temperatures outside. 

"February, March and April are the cold months," Pay it Forward Executive Director Sylvia Sprinkle said. "There's a lot of people right now in need."

Volunteers tied clothes around several trees and placed hats and gloves in boxes outside the church in the morning for people to come collect.

But because of the cold temperatures, they eventually decided to head downtown to reach more people. 

"If they can't come to us, we'll go to them," Sprinkle said.

Sprinkle and some other volunteers went to the Wabash bus station, where many homeless people took advantage of the wide selection of clothing items. 

"Valentine's Day is a very depressing holiday for some people, and in this way, we can show the love," Sprinkle said. "They're very relieved about having somebody that cares."

Many volunteers said homelessness is a bigger issue in Columbia than some would think.

"It's a big problem," said volunteer Audrey Lear, a resident of Columbia for 25 years. "But the churches really help out here, so at least you have somewhere to go in the evening. That helps."

Sprinkle said starting next year, she wants "Wrap Up Missouri" to become an annual event in other cities in Missouri. 

"Homelessness is in the whole state, not just Columbia," Sprinkle said. 

After visiting the bus station, Sprinkle and the other volunteers went to local parks and other busy areas to give out more clothes in the afternoon.