RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A new helping hand for Raleigh’s homeless took time Saturday to talk face-to-face day with people on the streets.

Jake Strickland and LaDarren Landrum, a soldier and Marine respectively, created Cardio Blessings as a way to serve the community while getting exercise. Strickland’s Army unit deployed to Haiti in 2010 to provide humanitarian relief after an earthquake, and he wanted to find a way to do something similar to help here at home.

It was also part of his recovery process from multiple back surgeries.

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“In the Army, we put our backpacks on with weight, and we carry them long distances. So I started doing that as my cardio. I decided to, since I was in the season of giving, to start putting food in backpacks and walking it to homeless people, sitting down engaging with them where they were at,” Strickland said.

“You have to approach them with caution. You have to be really sincere. You have to get on their level,” he said.

“If they’re sitting on the curb, you sit on the curb beside them. We show them as much love and compassion as possible before we ever talk about giving them anything.”

On Saturday, about two dozen people including the youth group from Gospel Tabernacle Church in Dunn joined the Cardio Blessings coordinators to fill their backpacks with items including snacks, water, socks, underwear, ponchos, toiletries, and even dog food to distribute.

They also had about 20 backpacks which contained many of those items — as well as a Bible.

“Whether they’re religious or not, everybody needs something to believe in and that’s what this is,” Landrum said.

“This is something that helps bring hope when Cardio Blessings is not around.”

They picked Moore Square and the surrounding area as the place for Saturday’s efforts because of the proximity of several shelters.

Strickland said the goal is to help people find a way off of the streets, into shelters, and eventually permanent homes.

Not all of the people they help are homeless. Strickland said it’s important to provide a smile and a start for a support system.

All of the items distributed Saturday, including the emergency kit backpacks, came through online donations to the Cardio Blessings’ Amazon wish list.

You can get involved with Cardio Blessings and learn more about future events by visiting their website on Facebook.