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      Local resource center gives back by donating "survival kits" for the homeless

      Pile of backpack "survival kits" put together by the Promise Center of Ottumwa to be donated to the homeless.

      May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and one local resource center lived up to its name Wednesday by hosting a day of giving back.

      The Promise Center in downtown Ottumwa titled the day's events "Keeping our Promise: to Serve, to Justice and to our Community". Promise Center members assembled survival kits stocked with socks, toothpaste, office supplies, resources and more to donate to the homeless who go to the Ottumwa Community Outreach Ministry, or OCOM, for help.

      "It's giving back to the community," said Donald Bailey. "It's all about giving back."

      Ottumwa's homeless shelter closed last year and that has had a dramatic impact on homeless men in the area, who are sometimes overlooked by assistance programs.

      "There were all kinds of programs for women, there still are, they don't have them for men," said Amy Butts, Promise Center member. "We don't think about men being homeless, we think of them being head of the household working. The unemployment is so bad right now, the economy's so bad that it hurts men."

      After packing the backpacks, the members walked them down to OCOM to be delivered. They also stopped by Agassiz Elementary to put on a play.

      Also on hand at the center Wednesday morning were representatives of AmeriCorps and Iowa Legal Aid, who gave a presentation on rights and resources.

      "We talked a lot about different resources available in the community that sometimes people aren't aware are there and just making sure that everyone's aware of the rights that they have, of where they can go for help if their rights aren't being respected," said Ginny McCalmont, of Iowa Legal Aid. "That's what we really want to make sure people are aware of."

      Iowa State Representative Mary Gaskill will be speaking on mental health care reform at the Promise Center next week as Mental Health Awareness Month continues.