Cold-weather shelter set to open this month in Chambersburg

November 08, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - It was dark, cold and wet last Thursday afternoon, the kind of day for which the Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter is being built.

It was drier, but not much warmer, inside where Ray Mitchell, Pat Boyle and Al Newman were cutting 2-by-4s and framing the walls in what had been storage space at the Maranatha Food Pantry at 195 Loudon St.

In a week or two, the space will become an overnight shelter, where people with no place to go can get a warm bed for the night, a hot shower and a bag lunch to get them started for the next day, said Greg Hurst, program director for Maranatha Ministries.


The faith-based nonprofit organization, area churches and the Franklin/Fulton Local Housing Option Team are building the shelter, which Hurst said will take in people from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. during cold-weather months. Hurst said the shelter should be ready to open by Nov. 15 or Nov. 22.

"The Local Housing Option Team did a study and determined there was a need" and homeless shelters in Chambersburg and Waynesboro, Pa., are often full, said Hurst. He said the team is made up of people from local churches and area human service agencies.

Plans are to have the shelter open from October through April, but Maranatha, which donated the space, may keep it open beyond that if it determines there is a need, he said.

In recent days, a concrete floor was poured in the storage area and volunteers from Helping Hands, a group of retirees from Penn National Estates in Fayetteville, Pa., began framing the space on Wednesday.

"This is our first project. It's a little bigger than we anticipated," said Ray Mitchell, a JLG Industries retiree.

"We do this for the fun of it," said Pat Boyle, a retired consultant to the nuclear power industry.

"It's not that we don't have better things to do. We just like to do this," said Al Newman, retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Natalie Newcomer, the executive director of Maranatha, said the Cold Weather Drop-in Center will be more than a warm bed for the needy.

"We'll have job placement there, so we're going to try and help them get their lives straight," she said. "These are just broken people who need help getting back on their feet."

Hurst said volunteers will be available during the day to offer substance, domestic and sexual abuse counseling. Maranatha will provide financial counseling and House of Grace, another nonprofit group, will help in teaching life skills people need to get their lives back in order.

The center will need seven volunteers a night to check people in, watch them overnight and clean up in the morning, Hurst said. Most of the volunteers - up to 49 a week - are expected to be provided through area churches, he said.

Maranatha already runs food, clothing and furniture banks in the building, Hurst said. The pantry serves about 325 families a month, giving out 15,000 pounds or more of food to people meeting income-eligibility guidelines, he said.

The budget for the center renovations is about $40,000, with $15,000 still needed, Hurst said.

For more information about the center, or to make a donation, call Hurst at 717-264-7785.

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