Monday December 19, 2011

BRATTLEBORO-- Members of the community will gather in front of Pliny Park on Main Street Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 4:30 p.m. to mark the International Day of the Homeless, remembering those who have died and acknowledge those in need of help.

"We walk from the church on the darkest night of the year in the darkest moment of the year," said pastor Lise Sparrow at the Guilford Community Church. "Dec. 21, the solstice, is sort of a reminder of the darkness and cold in which many people live on the streets. We will do things that help and recognize people who otherwise would be forgotten."

She said they will walk to the First Baptist Church in silence to remember the homeless and to bless the Overflow Shelter that provides bedding and a place to sleep for homeless people when the Morningside Shelter is full.

Morningside Shelter was established because there were people in the community that had died because no shelter was available, said Sparrow.

During the march, they will be carrying sleeping bags and bedding to give to the shelter, she said.

Sparrow said it is good to be able to have some place for the homeless people to go to get their lives together.

Melinda Bussino, executive director at the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center, will talk about the current situation in Brattleboro, how many people are in the shelter and how many are on the street.

"I will talk about the increase in homeless," said Bussino. "Homeless people on the streets are at risk of freezing."

She said she will read the names of homeless people who have died.

The walk to the church will be in silence, said Sparrow.

"Then we will sing another song and offer a blessing to the shelter, which is so important to the lives of homeless people in our community," said Sparrow.

The solstice is the day of the year with the least amount of sunlight.

Brattleboro Masons will also participate by bringing blankets and warm clothes that they have collected throughout the fall and winter.

Tony Barrand, who has been singing professionally in the United States for 40 years will lead a choir of about 20 volunteers to sing songs at Pliny Park. He also taught psychology, folklore and aesthetics through the University Professors at Boston University.

"We'll go out even if it's snowing," he said.

Anyone who would to participate in the songs is asked to meet at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 at the Centre Congregational Church.

Barrand said one of the songs will be about inviting a homeless person to come in and enjoy the heat, light and food.

"We'll sing songs about light and food," he said. "I wanted to do it because I think very important occasion and cause to sing for. It could happen to anybody."

The songs will hopefully get people to think about how you want to celebrate as well as help, said Barrand.

"You have to celebrate while being concerned for those who are not so lucky," he said.

The Overflow Shelter, located in the First Baptist Church at 190 Main St., has room and bedding for someone needing a place to sleep as well as a marked bin for anyone wishing to donate food or clothing.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the shelter can call Lucie Fortier at 802-579-7645 or e-mail her at overflow.bratt@yahoo.com. There are two shifts, one from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. or 1 a.m. until 7 a.m.

Carter Vanderhoof can be reached at cvanderhoof@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 277.