Some of Nashville’s homeless won’t have to go another night unprotected in the brutal cold weather anymore thanks to an East Nashville church. New Livingstone Church, 330 Hancock St, hosted a massive donation drive collecting warm wear items – gloves, hats, socks, thermal underwear, hand/feet warmers and scarves – to donate to Room in the Inn Program, an organization that offers shelter, food, clothing, assistance programs and other services for Nashville’s homeless.
This effort was in response to a homeless man who died on the steps of Crystal Fountain Church in East Nashville on Russell Street near South 10th Street. Close to 4,000 people are homeless in Nashville according to city officials. Despite beds begin available at the Rescue Mission and the Room in the Inn’s 15 church sites that offer warm shelters on cold nights, there are just not enough beds to keep everyone warm overnight, according to Karen Stevens, special projects director for Room in the Inn. She says it’s up to churches like New Livingstone to fill in the gap.
“We hope to never see another day when someone dies on the steps of a church which was originally established as a place for people to find refuge. On the heels of a holiday that tugs at our hearts and appeals to our good will, we are humbled to share in such a meaningful and worthwhile endeavor that benefits hurting humanity,” said Pastor Ronnie T. Mitchell, senior pastor of New Livingstone Church.
The day after James Fulmer, 50, was found dead, Mitchell put a call out to the church membership asking them to begin collecting items and to bring them to church on Sunday. He says he didn’t know how much would be donated with such short notice, but was pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed with the outpouring of donations.
“The impact on our membership has been telling. I know that they gave of themselves, and were pleased to do so. Seeing the church dig in and get this done sets a tone for the rest of the year,” said Mitchell.
The donation drive lasted through the following Wednesday. The community was asked to bring donations as well. In all, New Livingstone collected about 15, 20-gallon bags filled with all of the requested items, plus additional clothing items and baby clothes.
On Wednesday, Stevens, along with a group of volunteers met up with members from New Livingstone who delivered the donations. Stevens was shocked at the amount being donated.
“First of all, I had no idea that the community would come out and donate like this. To have the back of a pickup filled with bags to keep the streets of Nashville warm really brings tears to my eyes. There’s such a need out there,” said Stevens.
When the temperatures get as cold as 30s and 20 degrees overnight as it has been lately, teams of workers from Room in the Inn patrol the streets of Nashville, visiting with the homeless to make sure they’re okay. While on the patrol, they deliver items like those donated by New Livingstone to keep the homeless safe.
“The community is really generous to us most of the time, but the churches have really walked the walk and stepped up. Compared to what New Livingstone did, we have had nothing like this happen, but on a regular basis we have donations, but nothing on this magnitude,” said Stevens.
While giving Nashville’s homeless clothes, blankets, hats, etc is a great alternative, Room in the Inn officials say more is needed. They have about 180 churches who signed up with the program and promised to open their doors at night when it gets really cold, but only about a dozen churches actually do so. While opening the doors of the church would be the best and coziest option, Mitchell says New Livingstone is just not equipped to do so.
“The church actually participated in the Room in the Inn effort about 20 years ago. With a small facility, it was quite a challenge. Instead of opening our doors this time, we felt that we could make a positive impact in other ways. Many that are homeless will turn down an invite to stay inside anyway, therefore our collection of Cold Kits may help address their need of having more clothing as they brave the elements. When responding to hurting humanity , it may NOT be a bad idea to diversify the response,” said Mitchell.
Stevens says donation drives like the one New Livingstone did are very helpful and much appreciated, but more is needed. To donate to Room in the Inn or to have your church partner with Room in the Inn, visit www.RoomInTheInn.org or email volunteer@RoomintheInn.org.