The number of homeless people receiving assistance from Colby’s Army has risen to about 85 per week, a significant jump from the 10 per week the Ashland City non-profit organization was helping when it began its program last year, according to founder Lisa Wysocky.
Colby suffered from schizophrenia and died of a drug overdose at 23. Due to his mental illness, he was homeless for the last six months of his life. During that time, a woman gave him a backpack. Colby shared with Wysocky that the gift of the backpack moved him so deeply, that when she started the organization following his death, one of the first things she did was begin passing out backpacks stuffed with supplies to the homeless. From 2010-2019, the organization distributed roughly 1000 backpacks annually, and this served as the springboard for the launch of the weekly homeless outreach last year.
Wysocky said the weekly homeless outreach consists of distributing supplies needed for living outdoors; food (including fresh produce through a grant from the Kroger Foundation); and getting those who do find housing the furniture, housewares, and toiletries necessary for them to set up a home.
“Homelessness looks different in the country than in the city,” Wysocky said. “People will live behind shopping centers, in abandoned barns, and such. They are here, but you have to look for them. You won’t see people with signs out here begging, but they’re here. In the West Nashville area, 20% of the homeless are from Cheatham County because this county has no services for them, as in there’s no housing authority here. I estimate that there are three dozen families homeless and two dozen individuals homeless in Cheatham County, and we have many here who are a paycheck away from being homeless.”
Wysocky said her program needs volunteers, storage space for supplies, and donations in good condition of men’s casual clothing, shoes, socks, Chapstick, canned food, bottled water, kitchen items, household goods, and toiletries.
In October, Colby’s Army is scheduled to have its annual fundraiser Yard Sale Extravaganza when it opens its facility, has a bake sale and gives people the opportunity to meet its therapy horses.
Wysocky said that Cheatham County residents have donated laptops for the nonprofit’s leaders to do its administrative work.
Cheatham County resident Barbara Johnston said she has been volunteering with Colby’s Army for more than four years.
“I have found the whole experience enlightening,” she said. “I feel as though we’re really helping them, and I enjoy getting to know some of them.”
Wysocky’s son Colby died in 2009. She said that before her son became sick and joined the ranks of homelessness himself, even as a preteen, he would reach out to homeless people by buying them cold drinks from his own allowance and performing concerts for them.
When asked what he would think of the work his mother is doing for those in the same situation, Wysocky said, “I think Colby has been directing our steps from above.”
Colby’s Army is located in the former home of country singer Lee Greenwood at 1394 George Boyd Rd. in Ashland City. For information about the organization email firstname.lastname@example.org.