Hollie Warner knows food scarcity, so she started serving kindness every FridayJan 05, 2024 10:11AM ● By Peri Kinder
Every Friday, Hollie Warner and members of her group Friday Friends bring food and friendship to the unsheltered population in Salt Lake. (Photo courtesy of Warner)
Hollie Warner knows what it’s like to experience food scarcity. When she was a child, she knew if she didn’t get school lunch, she was out of luck because dinner and breakfast weren’t guaranteed. At age 10 she started babysitting and cleaning salons so she could have enough money to buy food.
So, even when she was a single mom with four boys, making less than $30,000 per year, Warner knew she needed to help others. She looked for volunteer opportunities that her children could be involved with, but many of the organizations had minimum age requirements.
“My children couldn’t do it because they were too young, so I decided to do it myself,” she said. “It’s not like I made a lot of money, but I figured out how to utilize what I had. We kind of get caught up in ourselves but it’s our job to serve each other.”
Warner made an effort 10 years ago to take food, clothes and other supplies to downtown Salt Lake. She and her sons did it sporadically until about seven years ago when they formally created Friday Friends. Every Friday, they take warm food and clothes, and human connection, to the unsheltered population.
Along the way, friends and businesses have jumped in to help, pitching in with money, time and donations. She credits Mike and Lisa Neibaur and Cathy Jorgensen with helping her to keep the project afloat. “I don’t know if I’d have been able to keep it going this far without them,” she said.
Before the pandemic, Friday Friends would set up a mobile soup kitchen where they distributed warm soup, fresh fruits and snacks. Now, the group puts together nearly 150 food packages each week that they give to those in need. Every Friday morning, Warner loads up her SUV and takes donations downtown near the Rio Grande Depot.
She’s often asked if she’s afraid to be around unsheltered people or if she’s worried about her safety when interacting with them.
“As a society we’ve been taught that they’re all addicts, or they’re crazy or we’re going to be stabbed,” Warner said. “But they’re just people and the reality of life is, we’re all one paycheck away from being in the same position.”
Over the last decade, she’s made many friends with the people she serves. When her son turned 9, he wanted to take cupcakes downtown to share his birthday with the people he’d grown to love. So they made 100 cupcakes and distributed the treats. As people realized it was his birthday, the whole crowd began singing “Happy Birthday.” That memory still makes Warner emotional.
“I think people have forgotten in today’s world what it’s like to show love. It can come in any form. Maybe a bag of apples or a box of granola or sending $5,” Warner said. “I think we get caught up in the idea that the problem is so big, we don’t know what to do, so we’re going to do nothing. But every small contribution makes a difference.”
Friday Friends goes through several cases of water each week, plus fresh fruit and vegetables, tortillas, granola bars and other food items. There is also a need for warm clothes, underwear, socks, gloves and tarps. During Halloween, she reached out to her Facebook community to gather leftover candy to take to youth living on the streets.
Warner accepts donations at her home in South Jordan where she lives with her partner and their blended family of seven children, plus an exchange student. Anyone interested in donating or getting involved can reach out to her on Facebook for more information. For those who’d like to donate money to Friday Friends, Warner’s Venmo is @Hollie-Warner-1. “This little village of people have come together, and because of that little village, over the last 10 years we have fed over 30,000 people,” she said. “It’s not because of me, it’s because I’ve had people who believed in what I believed in.”λ