A night out

A Night Out

Last Saturday night I was fortunate to spend the evening at a shelter for homeless men in downtown Atlanta. I was with Derek and Tom from our men’s group and Derek’s daughter Erin as the overnight volunteer crew. This ministry of hospitality and compassion is called the Central Night Shelter and is housed in two neighboring churches – Central Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. No taxpayer money goes to this good work.

We met at our church at 6pm Saturday night and returned Sunday morning in time for the 7:15am Mass. Tom and I were new at this, but Derek (who is in diaconate formation) has volunteered many times over the last 6 or 7 years. The shelter is open from November through March offering meals, a warm / safe place to sleep, restrooms, showers, laundry and more. This video gives a good overview:

The first order of business when the men arrive is dinner. Saturday’s menu included Broccoli-Pasta Alfredo, salad, roll and drinks. Dessert was cake and ice cream. We volunteers dined with the guests and learned a little about each other. The gentleman sitting across from me was staying that night for the first time.

After dinner the room was setup for sleeping. Lights out at 9pm except for the television room which closes at 11pm (we went a little long until the football game ended). In the morning everybody is given a breakfast bag and a lunch bag for the day.

The guests are truly grateful for this ministry and it was a pleasure to be with them. They were always polite, kept everything tidy, got tables / chairs / mats out and put them away, swept and mopped floors, etc. Your heart quickly goes out to these good people and you pray that they will soon have opportunities to move out.

One special surprise was live music! The Jordan B Band played for almost 2 hours and was enjoyed by all. Jordan lives down the street from me and also plays at our 8:45am Sunday Mass. He and his fellow musicians are very talented, sincere and engaging. Here is an interview they did on a local TV station:

More interviews, along with performances of their original Christian music, is on their YouTube channel. Somehow, YouTube doesn’t do them justice when compared to the live performance. More information may be available on their website.

Jordan and his compatriots have an exceptional ministry, touching many in the greatest need. Everyone was uplifted and very appreciative of this special contribution.

Volunteering here was a wonderful experience for me too. I suspect it wasn’t so great for Tom, who must have drawn the short straw for my shift, putting up with me until 3:30am. If you have a shelter in your area, please consider volunteering your time. There are many ways to help. I know I will be back.

The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a fascinating history dating back to 1848. During the Civil War, Father Thomas O’Reilly was respected by both sides. When Sherman ordered the burning of Atlanta, Father O’Reilly used his influence to protect the church and neighboring Protestant churches. After the war, the church served the homeless. It continues in that role today. The history of the shrine is quite interesting.

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