By mid-afternoon Saturday the sun was beating down on Turlock and most people were hiding from the heat in the comfort of their homes, relaxing on couches with their air conditioners pumping.
Not everyone has an air conditioned home to go to, however. The homeless of Turlock must find refuge in parks and other shaded areas around town, and while the shade may help to an extent, they are still outside with the heat, often tired and thirsty.
As the homeless and less fortunate make their way through the sweltering days, waiting for the cool summer night to arrive, Noel Dickey is driving around town in her Dodge Charger with an ice chest full of water in her backseat. She visits parks such as Broadway and Donnelly and flags down people walking or biking through the streets, offering each person she meets a cold bottle of water and a smile.
“It’s very rewarding to see people’s reactions and to help them,” Dickey said. “Them being so appreciative is rewarding in itself. It’s like they’re giving me a gift back.”
Dickey first started gifting water bottles to the homeless roughly a year ago after praying for guidance in her life. Then a Turlock resident, Dickey was only able to make her water trips once a month. Now, despite moving to Ceres, she’s managed to increase her outings to once a week.
“I was praying and God was just telling me to give water. I had a full case of water in my house and I went and I did it immediately,” Dickey said. “I never thought that I would love doing it so much. I used to give really bad attitude and excuses and now I’m giving out water.”
When asked why she’s taken on the solo mission to pass out water to the homeless, Dickey is quick to quote Deuteronomy 15:11 which states, “There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with others in need.”
Dickey is also quick to highlight her method of preach-by-action, an approach that differentiates herself from other organizations or institutions that traditionally do similar work.
“Nobody knows that I do this besides my daughter. It’s out of my heart, it’s not for attention,” Dickey said. “I know there are churches and places that give food out on certain days, but a lot of them (the homeless), from some experiences they’ve had in life, don’t want to go to the churches and hear what they have to say. I think actions speak louder than words and people can see or feel God’s love through your actions. They can see that there are people that care and don’t want anything back.”
After nearly a year of doing her work in private, Dickey is finally spreading the word about her ministry in an effort to serve more of those in need.
“I see more homeless children in Modesto than I do in Turlock, and that really gets to me, so if I can expand I will,” Dickey said. “But my main base is Turlock because that’s where my heart is.”
Dickey currently covers the costs of her water trips, which includes gas and two to three cases of water per trip, out of pocket. To help continue her work, she has created an Indiegogo fund with the goal of establishing what she has dubbed “Water on Wheels.” She is also encouraging those interested in volunteering or donating to contact her.
“I’m trying to expand. Whatever is given to me is given to me, whoever wants to help can help,” Dickey said. “I hope to eventually have a catering truck with freezers so I can give them (the homeless) drinks or anything to hydrate them while they’re out.”
Those interested in donating or volunteering or who would like more info about “Water on Wheels” can contact Dickey via email at email@example.com.