Compassion continues under Hagerstown shelter's new leaders

November 06, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- REACH might be under new leadership, but at the organization's cold weather shelter, the meals are just as hot, the showers just as refreshing and the compassion just as soul-filling as ever, lodgers said at an opening service Wednesday.

The shelter at 140 W. Franklin St., which lodges homeless adults during cold-weather months, opened Oct. 26.

"This place is a godsend," said Steve Crum, 53, of Hagerstown, who said he got out of jail Sept. 10 and had been sleeping in the woods with a single blanket until the shelter opened.

In contrast, the shelter's cots feel luxurious, Crum said.

In previous years, staying in the shelter has given Crum the boost he needed to get a job and save some money for the summer months, when the shelter is closed, he said.

That advantage that comes from a good meal, a safe night's rest and the support of others is what REACH is all about, said Jodie Stock, the organization's new executive director.


"To me, it's all about the hope I see when people have a chance to turn their lives around and get out of a situation," she said.

Also new to REACH is Lori Wriston, who is coordinating the shelter for the first time this year. Wriston said the shelter's volunteers have adapted well to the change in leadership and made for smooth opening.

"It's a great bunch of people to work with," she said.

Each week, a different church or organization acts as hosts at the shelter, providing meals and working at the shelter. The shelter is still seeking volunteers for single-day commitments Nov. 24, 26 and 27, Wriston said.

As part of the opening service Wednesday, the Upfront Praise Band performed, a woman read a poem, and Stock offered a prayer thanking God for the shelter's volunteers and success so far and asking for blessings on all who enter the shelter.

The Rev. Pete Zerphy, pastor at Hope Bridge Church, asked those gathered outside the shelter to hug each other and say "God bless you."

"Yeah, we give people a hot meal and a bed, but I hope that we are more than that," Zerphy said. "I hope that we are the image of God to people and that we help people to connect to that."

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