Florida church members trying to distribute a Thanksgiving meal to the homeless in a Palm Beach County park on Thursday were stopped by a park ranger who said their act of kindness was against the rules.
Members of the Acts 2 Worship Center in Loxahatchee, Fla. were at John Prince Park in Lake Worth giving Styrofoam containers filled with Thanksgiving food to the needy in the park when a park ranger named Mark told them their actions were not allowed, according to CBS 12.
"We brought our kids out here so they could see what it’s really like for people that are struggling,” said church member Brian Oakes, whose family was part of the foot distribution mission.
The good deed was appreciated by the people who call the park home, including Kevin Rudd.
“We’re grateful, you know,” said Rudd. “They hand out; we meet the guys and stuff. They give us a prayer and everything.”
"God takes care of us,” said another homeless man, Steven Griffin, who lives in the park with his wife Dominique. “We don't starve. We're grateful."
"You get all these other people coming in,” said Griffin of the growing number of homeless living in the park. “I guess it’s because of the economy.”
Everyone involved was surprised, then, when the peaceful exchange was interrupted by a park ranger, who approached the church members and said it was illegal to feed the homeless in the park. When they asked him to cite the law that said so, he could not. “Mark” refused to talk to the CBS 12 news crew, only agreeing that he had been instructed to disband the group.
Acts 2 pastor Calvin Lyerla told the Sun-Sentinel that his church has given meals to the homeless each Thanksgiving for several years. It had never been an issue anywhere, including in public parks.
He suggested that authorities be more relaxed on the holidays.
"It is Thanksgiving," he said. "Let's bend the code, then, just in this case."