By Evan Heins--Eagle Staff Writer
Since January 2022 FC Warming Shelters has been helping people in the Franklin County community during the colder months. Whether they are homeless or have no power to keep warm during the winter, FC Warming Shelters has a spot open for them.
The way that FC Warming Shelters differs from other homeless shelters is they are only open during colder months of the year, meaning that it is seasonal while the average homeless shelter is open year round.
"In December we were open if the temperature was 35 degrees or less," Susan Hughes, Warming Shelter Director, explained. "We’re open every night in January and February. In March, we’re open if the temperature is 35 degrees or less. We’re closed the other 8 months.”
The idea came about when Hughes, with Lake Christian Ministries, had noticed Redwood United Methodist had the building to make a warming shelter.
“I used to be a member and later a staff member at Redwood UMC," Hughes said. "I left there in 2018 but I knew they had this amazing facility. I was at the building dedication in 2021 and I talked with the pastors who are there now and I said, 'Guys this was built with the warming shelter in mind. There’s showers, there’s plenty of space. Would you be willing to start a partnership and provide this ministry to the people in our area?'”
With that, Clayton and Sarah Payne, the co-pastors at Redwood UMC, agreed, and the shelter came to fruition.
To Hughes, FC Warming Shelters is empowered by a partnership between Lake Christian Ministries and Redwood UMC.
“I think there’s a big benefit to having two players oversee this. It’s not run by the church, it’s not run by Lake Christian Ministries but we together have lifted it up as a community effort,” Hughes explained.
The shelter has also gotten offers to partner with agencies such as the Franklin County Department of Social Services. They also receive donations from organizations and volunteers like the Roanoke Rescue Mission and many other non-profits have given them food and blankets.
Hughes explained having many partnerships means everyone feels like they’re needed. “We have so many other churches and organizations and individuals wanting to help because we’re not making it about us. It happens to be at Redwood Methodist Church because they have the facilities but we have given access to everyone in the community to be part of what’s happening there.”
Volunteers are also a huge part of the shelter. ”[We have] volunteers from United Methodist Women which is an organization in all Methodist churches. It's pretty cool. Also, individuals in the community have provided a significant effort for transportation and being overnight volunteers as well,” added Hughes. Volunteers help prepare and cook the food for guests that come in and out of the shelter, and have the option to stay overnight.
”We do have one paid staff person every night and they’re the key player for responsibilities. Volunteers just come and serve food. If you stay overnight you just come and hang out; you’re that second person. You don’t have a lot of responsibility,” Hughes elaborated,
Minors are also welcome to volunteer while under the watch of a parent or guardian. They do the same work as regular volunteers except for staying overnight.
The shelter operates on a strict schedule as far as when people are allowed to come in, but guests are allowed to stay every night if they wish.
“We open the doors at 7 PM; people come in and have a meal. We lock the doors at 8 PM and people can stay until 8AM the next morning. It’s not the kind of place people can shuffle in later in the evenings, but that’s OK because people who are experiencing homelessness know by 8 PM if they need a place to stay the night,” explained Hughes.
When it comes to volunteering, Hughes described many ways for someone to sign up.
“We prefer to have people sign up online. We have a website which is fcvawarmingshelter.com. You can go to the volunteer page and go to the calendar and sign up. You can sign up to help with food or overnight. You can also call the hotline which is 540-384-0010 or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also access us on Facebook and we’ll get back to you,” she explained.
Hughes and all partners associated with FC Warming Shelters hope that their efforts can help their neighbors handle the harsh winter conditions.
“I would like to see in five years that there would be a permanent shelter in Rocky Mount, and that it would be needed. It’s not that I don’t want to do this work, but I would love for this work to be done better… [There’s more to be done] than what we can handle," she admitted.