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Candles burn for homeless

November 19, 2000

Candles burn for homeless



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


As temperatures dipped into the 30s Sunday many people simply adjusted their thermostats to keep warm. But for others, cold weather is more than just an inconvenience, it can be life threatening.

For the past five years Washington County's homeless have turned to REACH Cold Weather Shelter, said Terri Baker, executive director of Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless.

The annual shelter opened on Nov. 12 at the First Christian Church on Potomac Avenue in Hagerstown. About 35 people attended a candle light prayer service Sunday in the church parking lot .

Baker thanked all of the volunteers for their help and made a plea for understanding and compassion for the homeless.

"There are still people on the streets who are afraid to come in for a lot of reasons we don't understand because we are not in their situation," said Baker.

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REACH volunteer Don Hamburg told the group that their candles are a signal for those in need.

"The light is a beacon that says 'come, to a warm, safe, haven where you will be able to sleep and be secure,'" said Hamburg.

On the shelter's opening night, six people stopped in for a hot meal and a warm bed.

Since then they have had about 20 people per evening and that number is expected to increase to 40 or more as temperatures drop, said Glenda Helman, Community Action Council director of services.

Last season, as many as 30 people a night sought shelter during the coldest winter months.

During the first few years, the shelter rotated between churches until it gained a "permanent" home at a building adjacent to Christ's Reformed. Renovations to that building are to begin soon so the shelter can again be housed there, according to Baker.

Shelter hours are 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Sundays.

Those wishing more information or to volunteer may call 301-733-2371. For emergency shelter needs, contact the Community Action Council at 301-797-4161 or CASA hotline at 301-739-8975.

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