Chesapeake Members Shelter Neighbors From the Cold
As the 22-year-old mother of two tried to get her friendly, rambunctious, four-year-old daughter to sit still at the dinner table, her five-year-old son sat counting. He was doing pretty well. He almost made it to 100, when Luritz Parker, a member of Chesapeake Conference’s Atholton church in Columbia, Md., interrupted to hand them three clear sandwich bags filled with soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and wash cloths.
“Do you need anything else?” He asked kindly.
“No, this is fine,” the mother replied softly. “Thank you.”
“Do you think you’ll need lunch tomorrow?”
“No, we’ll be okay,” she responded.
When Parker departed, she and the children resume eating their meal—chili and cornbread with all the fixings—perfect for a cold, rainy Thursday.
The mother didn’t want to share her name, but looking around at the large, open gym where there were pallets and blankets laid out on the floor, enough for 20 people, one could understand her hesitation.
“Our lights got turned off a few days ago,” she said explaining how she and her children ended up seeking shelter at the church. “This happened a few days ago and we’ve been going to hotels and family members’ houses. One family member started acting like they didn’t want us there anymore.”
She added that although she has a job at a Macy’s in Virginia, which she somehow makes it to without a car, they had been living with her mother to save on costs. But when the power got cut off, it was too cold to keep the children at the house.
Shawn Paris, senior pastor of the Atholton church, was one of the hosts who welcomed the young mother and some seven other people who had nowhere else to stay on a cold November night. Paris is fairly new to the 600-member church and to the program, which members have participated in for eight years. Each year, when the temperatures drop, some 15 congregations in Howard County, Maryland, work with an organization called Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center to offer shelter to those who need it. Each church hosts the shelter for a week. They also cook three meals a day and drive their “guests” to a day center where they can take showers and look for jobs. And because Atholton’s week fell during Thanksgiving, the church cooked a special meal to celebrate.