GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – John ‘Redd’ Martin knows the struggles of being homeless. He used to live on the streets of downtown Greenville, going days without a meal and begging for food. Now on a weekly basis he helps to feed the faces he once used to know so well.
“I remember days where I had to eat out of trash cans,” said Martin.
Six years ago Martin met his wife Cassandra, when the two worked for the Greenville Drive. Still homeless at the time, Martin said she showed him love.
“And a lot of attention, and something I didn’t think I deserved, because I was on drugs and alcohol all my life, since I was 13.” Martin said. “I’ve attempted suicide a couple of times. I’ve even shot myself in the chest. So I wasn’t really feeling good about life and when I met her. She made me feel different.”
Martin said shortly after the two met, they fell in love and got married.
Before they tied the knot, Martin said they spent time together volunteering and feeding people at a place called Turning Point, a recovery house for men.
“And one night we were out there giving plates of food out and she asked me how did they eat? And I said well they usually cook on the grills because there’s no stoves in the room,” explained Martin.
Martin said that’s when his wife shared that her grandmother would cook meals for the family every Sunday.
“And no matter what you were going through you could always have Sunday dinner,” Martin said. “So, we put my concept about being homeless and put her Grandma’s concept about cooking for people… And we put that together and that’s what Sunday Dinner’s all about.”
Now four years later, the two and several volunteers go out every Sunday afternoon handing out 125 plates worth of food to homeless people on the streets of Greenville.
“We ride around town, go to places where I used to be homeless at and where the people are,” Martin said. “And these people, they’re people. And they’re God’s people. And we just love them and we show them that they’re human.”
Martin said his wife Cassandra does all the cooking which takes a full day to prepare, but several helping hands to box up and give out.
Sunday Dinner Incorporated also provides snack bags, toiletry bags, basic shelter needs. Martin does their laundry, brings them to the DMV, doctors appointments, and more to try to help get them on their feet.
“Our main thing is to give without stipulations, because that’s what God does for us,” Martin told 7 News. “We don’t care who you are or what you’re going through, we want to give love to you and show hope.”
Joe Smith said he volunteered to see what the organization was about and hasn’t missed a Sunday since.
“It’s taught me compassion because I probably was lacking it,” Smith said.
He said the experience has been eye opening.
“I always sometimes when we speak, we kind of have a huddle up before we go out, and I will say you know, ‘we’re one wrong turn from me being homeless.’ If we write those folks off, what happens when one of us becomes homeless? Something went wrong?” he explained.
“One thing that I thought before we started this was that you were homeless because you wanted to be homeless. That it was a choice,” said Volunteer, Rebekah Davis.
Davis said after getting involved, her opinions changed, too.
“You know, some of these people have jobs that they go to five days a week. It’s just that they can’t make enough money to be on their own,” Davis said. “They are hard workers. They’re human just like we are. I think it’s very important that we treat them like humans and let them know that they are loved.”
Eddie Guerra has been a volunteer with the organization for almost a year now. He said it’s humbling.
“Just to see their faces glow to see that, wow this person’s out there reaching out to me, giving me food, and talking to me as a person, you know? I just want them to know that those little things go a long way for these people,” Guerra said. “To show that you care for them and show value to them, it goes a long way.”
Because at the end of the day, as Martin puts it, it’s about humanizing the homeless.
“And my wife taught me how to love,” Martin said. “So that’s, that’s what we try to do. The same way she loved me when I had nothing, I try to love them the same way.”
To learn more about Sunday Dinner Inc. or to donate, click here.