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Cold-weather shelter opens for new season of protection

November 06, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - A ceremony Monday to commemorate another season of sheltering the homeless featured a somber salute to a couple who helped start a lasting local movement.

Charles "Don" Hamburg and Helen Hamburg were remembered at a service to open REACH's cold-weather shelter on West Franklin Street in Hagerstown for the 2007-08 season.

The Hamburgs had been active in REACH (Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless) since it started in 1990, Executive Director Terri Baker said.

Don Hamburg died in 2005. His wife, Helen, died this past June.

During a candlelight ceremony, Baker pointed out a tree that will be planted to honor the Hamburgs.

The ceremony also included prayers, songs and kind words about volunteers.

The shelter actually opened for the winter Oct. 28.

Shortly after the ceremony ended, several people filed into the shelter to stay for the night.

A kitchen crew from Boonsboro First Christian Church - including coordinator Diann Smith and other volunteers Jean Hanna, Don Richardson and Peggy Adams - was prepared.

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The dinner menu was hamburgers, baked beans, cole slaw, fruit and Rice Krispie treats. They expected a crowd of about 45, which is roughly how many people have stayed at the shelter each night so far.

The Hamburgs were from their church, Richardson said.

At about 7:15 p.m., an elevator door opened and James Dunn Jr., who was in a wheelchair, rolled to the back of the sign-in line.

He praised shelter volunteers for "the kindness and the helpfulness." If he wasn't staying there, he said, he'd be "either out in some forest or on the playground."

A Pittsburgh native who grew up in Alexandria, Va., Dunn said he used to work a night shift at the former YMCA building in Hagerstown.

Now, he gets Social Security payments, he said.

Rodney Norman said he didn't choose to be homeless, starting three years ago, yet "I put myself here."

He said that not having a job, plus a falling-out with his girlfriend, led to his downturn.

He plans to try for a job at FedEx today, which he hopes would turn his situation around.

Norman, who is originally from Chambersburg, Pa., also was looking forward to visiting his granddaughter, Heaven. She will turn 1 year old this month.

"I'm Pappy," he said.

Amanda Walmsley checked into the shelter Monday. She said she "made some friends with the wrong people" in her hometown of Cumberland, Md., and needed to start over somewhere else.

She found out about the REACH shelter through a homeless outreach program while she was at Brook Lane Health Services in Hagerstown.

Without the shelter, Walmsley said, she'd be "on the streets."

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