When selfless love saves lives
By: Kaitlin Calk
If you keep up with the news, you probably know almost everything about celebrities and politicians. This is understandable; their stories are either very interesting or glamourized to be. What people fail to see are the stories that are much closer to home. Virgil Coffey was a man you probably haven’t heard of. He wasn’t a celebrity or important in the world of politics, but he has an amazing story.
Coffey was a man who, despite being a college graduate, became homeless after he was unable to find work in Corpus Christi. He never begged for money, but instead, would go through dumpsters to collect cans and food. He was also an animal lover; he had a pack of five dogs named Max, Julius, Cocoa, Paco and Lilly. He loved them and cared for them as if they were his children, but he knew they deserved more. In hopes of finding them a better life, he reached out to Sara Kuris-Morgan and Jennifer Diaz, two women who are involved with Taking it to the Streets, which is an event benefiting the homeless hosted by Bay Area Fellowship West Side Campus.
“He was sitting alone at a table bundled up in several coats with hoods,” says Kuris-Morgan of the first time she met him. “We noticed that he had several dogs and asked him if we could help him get the dogs spayed/neutered. At first he was reluctant, but agreed to let us. With the help of Oso Creek Hospital, PAAC and the Cattery, we were able to get all of his pack vetted. Going to his camp to pick up the dogs for their appointment was a wake-up call for both Jennifer and I. He was living in a field in a dangerous part of town, and it was very cold. He was sleeping on some cushions on the ground. It really broke my heart to see him living like this.”
On Feb. 22, Coffey asked Kuris-Morgan if she could help him find homes for them, so she posted a picture of him and his dogs on Facebook. Robin Gentry, the vice president of the board at the Gulf Coast Humane Society (GCHS), contacted her and said GCHS would take three of his dogs.
“On our way to meet Virgil, I thought I would take Robin on a short tour of Virgil’s neighborhood and show her where he lived,” Kuris-Morgan says. “We looked across the field and saw Virgil sitting on a bench near his camp. As we got closer, we realized that he was very sick. Robin is a nurse and said that we needed to get him to a hospital as soon as possible. She immediately said that GCHS would take all of the dogs so we could get Virgil to the hospital. He fought a long, hard battle against pneumonia, but unfortunately, he passed away on May 7, 2014.”
Kuris-Morgan describes Coffey as a very kind, gentle man to whom dogs simply gravitated. “They all cuddled up together at night to keep each other warm,” she says. “He had one dog on each side of him when he slept. Virgil loved his dogs, and they loved him. He loved to read and always had a Bible at his camp. There were many times when his camp was robbed or destroyed, but he always found another Bible to keep with him.”
This experience has had a big impact on Kuris-Morgan’s life. “This experience has opened my eyes to the tremendous amount of need in our own community,” she says. “I began this journey by trying to help the homeless get their dogs spayed, neutered and vaccinated. It has grown into a great passion for me. Every day when I get up, I am so thankful for my many blessings … wonderful healthy family, roof over my head, food on the table and good job. What else can you ask for?”
As of June 14, all five of Coffey’s dogs have found their forever homes through GCHS. Coffey’s story will most likely never have a place in history books or national news, but Coffey already has a place in the hearts of all five of his dogs as a hero.
Bay Area Fellowship West Side Campus hosts Taking it to the Streets on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month at city hall at 5 p.m. They provide a meal and a bag with grocery items, clothes and toiletries. During winter, blankets are also given away. For more information, visit www.bayareafellowship.com/westside