This Saturday will mark the fifth month that Joey Bellus and Shaun Rico of “Help a Human” have met with local homeless people at Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park to distribute supplies and friendship.

The project was started with an epiphany from Bellus, the owner and founder of Optimal Performance Training, a gym in Gilbert. He felt he was being selfish with his life, a sentiment that resonated with Rico.

“We realized we limited ourselves to helping the community through the realm of health and fitness,” said Rico. “And only if they walked through our door.”

So instead of just donating money to a charity, the two friends started a mission to bring a human element back to community service.

“We really do need to recognize there is human element to all this,” Bellus said. “We don’t just lump people into a category of homeless, send a few bucks to a shelter and pat ourselves on the back. Our effort with ‘Help a Human’ is the experience of actually helping a person, not just a condition.”

Help a Human, which has not achieved nonprofit status yet, is a project that combines friendly conversation, letters of inspiration and basic necessities.

“It’s to learn and share experiences,” Rico said. “We wanted to reach a part of humanity that we, as a society, have been disconnected from.”

Donations and letters are put into backpacks or pillowcases for the homeless and distributed in the park. The first effort only involved 40 bags to distribute, but nearly 100 were delivered in July. The goal is to distribute 250 bags this Friday, Rico said.

The next scheduled dates are Sept. 25, Oct. 21, Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. Donations are accepted at Optimal Performance Training, 725 W. Commerce Ave., Gilbert, on the Friday before each Saturday delivery. Listed below are items that are needed, please include a letter of inspiration. For more information and for sample letters, visit

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