Tuesday November 20, 2012

As autumn unfolds and turns toward winter, plans are in full swing to open the Brattleboro Area Winter Emergency Overflow Homeless Shelter. The Overflow Shelter, as we call it for short, will open on Sunday, Nov. 25. If weather demands, it will remain open through April 15, 2013. This is the sixth year we operate the Overflow Shelter in Brattleboro and the fifth year that home cooked meals are offered each evening.

The Overflow Shelter is a collaborative project of the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center, the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association and First Baptist Church. While the Overflow Shelter is housed at First Baptist Church and operated by the Drop In Center, it is the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association that schedules all the evening meals, except for every Wednesday when Grace's Kitchen offers the meal as part of their on-going soup kitchen ministry. Together, First Baptist Church, the Drop In Center and the Interfaith Clergy Association make sure all homeless individuals have a safe and warm place to spend the night through the winter and receive a satisfying and nutritious meal.

This important community service and ministry could not be possible without broad support from the entire community. We depend on the generosity of a large cadre of volunteers who give of their time to staff the Overflow Shelter at night in shifts from 7 p.


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m. to 1 a.m. and from 1 to 7 a.m. and volunteers who love to prepare good meals for their homeless neighbors. According to the Drop In Center's statistics, 3,012 bed nights were provided last year to 133 different guests and 5,160 meals were served.

More than 30 different Meal Teams shared this ministry. Many have participated from the very beginning. So far this year, the list of Meal Teams includes:

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church; Brattleboro Area Affordable Housing; Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association; Brattleboro Area Interfaith Initiative; Brattleboro Area Jewish Community; Brattleboro Food Co-op; Brattleboro Kiwanis; Bunker, Deb & Friends; Case, Vickie & Family; Centre Congregational Church; Compass School; Dummerston Congregational Church & Dummerston Grange; Fagan, Christin and Friends; First Baptist Church; First Congregational Church, W. Brattleboro; First United Methodist Church; Guilford Community Church UCC; Hilltop Montessori School; Interfaith Junior Youth Group; Lier, Kim & Friends; Lovett, Evie & Friends; Newfane Congregational Church; Putney Friends Meeting; Rabinowitz, Marli & the Earth Centered Practitioners; St. Michael's Episcopal Church; Scudder, Robin & Friends; Trinity Lutheran Church; Vermont Insight Meditation Center; Windham County Homeschoolers

Many of these teams have signed up to provide one meal each month and some are providing two meals every month.

There are, of course, opportunities for more volunteers to become involved. If you would like to sign up and be trained as an overnight volunteer, please contact Drop In Center Executive Director Lucie Fortier at 802-257-5415. The Drop In Center accepts financial donations in support of this important project. Donations should be mailed to the Drop In Center, 60 South Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301.

If you are interested in providing a meal this winter, please contact the Reverend Barbro Hansson by phone at 257-5186 or by email at overflow.meals@gmail.com. The Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association established a special fund, the Serving Our Shelter Fund, to support Meal Teams by reimbursing their expenses. Contributions to this fund can be sent to The SOS Fund, c/o All Souls Church, P.O. Box 2297, West Brattleboro, Vermont 05301.

Everyone is welcome to join us as we stand together in community and give thanks at the annual Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. Leaders and members of various faith communities will be involved, sharing from their own tradition and the Brattleboro Women's Chorus will be singing. Please bring a non-perishable food item to donate to food shelf at the Drop In Center. The Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving will be held at St. Michael Catholic Church, 47 Walnut St. in Brattleboro.

All of us at the Drop In Center, First Baptist Church and the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Community are deeply grateful to all our volunteers and supporters and the spirit of generosity that makes it possible for us to continue to serve our homeless neighbors and save lives.

The Reverend Barbro Hansson is coordinator of meal teams; Lucie Fortier is the executive director of Brattleboro Area Drop In Center.