I want to say thank you to everyone sharing in this celebration of gratitude in honor of you and your faithfulness in serving the poor and homeless for this year’s Winter Freeze Shelter. That service starts with a choice.
The experiences of so many of our community’s people who serve the homeless begin when they ask, “How can I help?” You may just embark on an unintended journey. You may just be challenged with satisfying a need beyond your resources. You may become acquainted with a depth of despair that leaves you speechless.
I had that experience on the morning we were saying good bye to our guests. I had just given Jeff a quiet but friendly guy a tent and sleeping bag. He asked if he could have a few bucks for smokes and I said sure. So while I was in the cash box I told him to stay in touch and he answered that he didn’t have a phone. I told him I had a spare that he was welcome to have, and he said to my surprise who would I call? He then said some- thing that has haunted me for days. “John, I’ve become other than human. I can’t take this anymore.”
Jeff’s anguish says to me much needs to be done to end homelessness in our communities, and I am absolutely convinced that the generosity of this Ohio Valley will continue to be faithful in restoring the dignity and liveli- hood of our fellow brothers and sisters.
What I want to honor tonight is the faithfulness of our caring communities:
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To the faithful foundations, Hoffman, Stamp, Hess, Christian Fellowship, Ohio Valley Christian Soldiers and a few that wished to remain anonymous, thank you.
To Dr. Mercer, Dr. Wack and their entire medical and outreach team who every Friday faithfully at- tended to the medical needs of our guests, thank you.
To Wheeling Linen, whose faithful workers laun- dered over 10,000 sheets, pillowcases and blankets dignifying the homeless with clean linens nightly, thank you.
To the volunteers who kept vigil nightly: Vicki, Leonard, Travis, April, Banford, John, Carole, Kate, Marilyn, Michaela, Courtney and so many others. Thank You.
To those who provided hot meals nightly: Steve, Michelle, and Michael Novotney, with help from Shawn Fluharty and David Rotriga of Miklas Meat Market, Quaker Steak and Lube, Avenue Eats, Margaret and Lloyd Walker, Soroptimist Group, River City, Pizza Express, Papa John’s, Kim and our kids at the McCrary Center, our Detention Center staff, Mari- lyn Thomas, Shaney Faini, Janet Boyle, Chuck Knight, Galey Wilson, Elm Grove United Methodist Church, Warwood Women’s Group, Sandy Pell and her family, Carole Wack, Lori Timmer, Marilyn and Kate, thank you.
To those that made Christmas special for these folks too. Moundsville Church of the Nazarene, Vineyard Church, AEP Mitchell Plant employees, Christ United Methodist Church’s King Unit, Carolyn and Wayne Smith, Christian Fellowship Foundation, thank you.To all my good help at YSS and to all whose names I failed to mention, on behalf of 197 men and women you served. Thank you.
I am proud that because of your generosity:
More than 25 are now in their own home;
15 or more have been re-united with family or friends;
More than 40 have been connected with medical or mental health treatment.
Thanks to the community’s generosity all year long we now have a store, so to speak, where clothing, small appliances, and furniture, when we have it, is available to our neighbors in need. We open Wednesdays and Fridays and welcome 60 –80 people. Everything is free—even though we joke with our visitors that shoplifters will be prosecuted. It always gets a good laugh.
In closing, I want to share a quote from the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton, that my good friend Bill Hogan share with me some time ago:
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether they are worthy. This is not our business and in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy, if anything can.”
Thank you good people for letting us be the instruments of your charity, your humanity and your love.