Church pledges $6K to warming shelter

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BELLOWS FALLS -- Immanuel Episcopal Church recently pledged a four-figure donation to the Greater Falls Warming Shelter to assist the area’s homeless.

The Rev. Steven G. Fuller Sr., the church’s outreach leader, said Immanuel will provide the shelter with $6,000 to be used as seed money to make sure there it secures a permanent residence in Bellows Falls. The money will be given on the condition that other churches and organizations match it to create a fund for this purpose.

The GFWS operated in the basement of Athens Pizza House in 2010/2011 in Bellows Falls with a temporary permit but was denied a permanent one late last year by the Rockingham Planning Commission & Zoning Board of Adjustment, which became deadlocked in a 3-3 vote. The shelter’s board of directors started the process of appealing the non-opinion to the state’s environmental court but recently decided against it.

Fuller, as well as the wardens and vestry of Immanuel Episcopal Church, wrote a letter to the Reformer’s editors, stating that they became greatly concerned when the shelter was denied a permit.

Though the GFWS has been renting private apartments to help homeless individuals, it can accommodate only eight people. GFWS Chairwoman Louise Luring said the shelter has in the past assisted many more people at once.

Fuller said he hopes the $6,000 pledge will bring the community together in this cause.

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"Homelessness is not a problem to be ignored and solved with a not-in-my-backyard attitude. The economy may be slowly improving, but there will always be homeless people in our midst," the letter stated. "We have it in our power as a community to make their lives more bearable during the Vermont winters, and perhaps all year round."

The letter further stated that the church has donated to the Greater Falls United Network through Southeastern Vermont Community Action each year to support the shelter and has been represented by the Rev. Charles Mansfield -- one of its deacons -- at the planning meetings.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Fuller said he knows many homeless people in the area as there has been a weekly community supper for at least the past 20 years. He said each meal starts at 5 p.m. on Monday.

"We made the pledge in part because we realize the homeless people in the community need somewhere to go," he said, "and we had the resources to do so."

He added that the pledge is a challenge to other churches and businesses to work together to generate a total fund of $12,000. Fuller, a member of the church for 40 years and an ordained minister for the past nine, acknowledged that the $6,000 won’t purchase a permanent residence but knows it’s step in the right direction.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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