Cold Weather Shelter a fellowship helping the homeless [Highland/Fulton]
By Chuck Gait
Howard County Times|
Feb 08, 2018 at 2:00 PM
This winter has been one of the coldest that we’ve had in a very long time. Most of us are very fortunate that we live where we do, have good jobs, places to live and food to eat. But have you wondered about those folks who are homeless? Where do they go to sleep? What do they do for food? What if they have a spouse and kids? That really complicates things.
Fortunately, Grassroots has a program for this very situation. It’s called the Cold Weather Shelter program (GCWS). Amy Levitt, a woman whom I know through the workplace, casually mentioned the program to me while we were waiting for the elevator. Amy is a member of Temple Isaiah of Fulton, and a member of the temple’s CWS team. The program at Temple Isaiah, headed up by fellow congregant Susan Gordon, has been going on now for over five years. In general, the program works in this fashion: religious congregations throughout the county participate in the GCWS at their places of worship. Each week, a different congregation provides the necessary services for a week. At Temple Isaiah, they average about 25 people each night (2/3 are men, 1/3 are women; maybe a family, too). Each congregation is free to administer their week as they see fit.
Gordonsays “An enormous team of volunteers is needed for the CWS to succeed. Volunteers pick guests up at the mall at 5:45 p.m. and bring them to Temple Isaiah. Each night a big meal is served, with many congregants contributing their culinary skills. After dinner, we sometimes offer activities and services for those who are interested. In past years, we have had yoga, bingo, movie nights, legal services, resume services and many other things offered. With such a large congregation, we have many resources to pull from through our congregants. Guests can take showers in a little house on our property, and have their laundry done. Grassroots provides mats for guests to sleep on, as well as sheets, pillows, blankets, towels and toiletries. A couple volunteers from the temple chaperone throughout the night, keeping watch over their charges. During the week that we host the shelter, arrangements are made for our Hebrew school students to meet elsewhere in the building, and our classrooms are used to house the men, women and families that come to the shelter. Each morning, breakfast is provided, and volunteers transport the guests back to the mall between 6:30 and 7:00 am. Some guests need rides to and from work, and our generous volunteers pick people up as early as 5:30 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m.”
Rabbi Craig Axler had this to add: “When I arrived at Temple Isaiah five-and -a half years ago, it wasn’t long before Susan showed up in my office asking whether this would be a possibility – to have Temple Isaiah become the first synagogue to house the Cold Weather Shelter in our building and to provide the necessary volunteer hours to run a week.”
Boy, talk about putting the new guy right on the spot! Axler wrote, “Of course, the primary reason to do it is because it is right and just. Our synagogue named itself in honor of the Prophet Isaiah, who called upon us to ‘share your bread with the hungry, take the friendless poor into your home. When you see the naked, to clothe them and never to ignore your own fellow human being (58:7).’ Hosting the CWS and all of the things that have grown from that is a step towards upholding the prophetic message.” Axler has nothing but praise for Gordon: “although she is tremendously humble about this, Susan is one of a small core who put so much energy into the preparations, organizing the volunteers, soliciting the donations and ultimately showing up and doing the work. She has a small core that are truly amazing, and an inspiration to the great numbers of additional members of our Temple Isaiah community who come and pitch in the ways that they can.”
The Lime Kiln Middle SchoolLime Lighter students of the week – those who have demonstrated their ability to “ROAR”- responsible, respectful, and academically focused, for the week ending Jan. 19 were: Anna Strub, Aislin Hall, Alex Thompson, Will McGee, Amelia Rose, Asher Albert, Isaac Tebben, Stephanie Mihalik, Makaila Carroll and Lindsay Khalluf.
I would like to wish a very happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Jennie. Happy Valentine’s day, too.