Churches Share the Love with Weeks of Food and Shelter

Churches Share the Love with Weeks of Food and Shelter

(Rebecca Hammond, Jan. 15, 2018)

Ferndale, MI – There are times when a church goes beyond being a house of worship and becomes a community project with multiple layers of service, need, and reward.

The South Oakland Warming Center, which is an overnight shelter for homeless people that rotates through area churches a week at a time through the winter, is such a place. And last week it found its home in Ferndale’s Renaissance Vineyard Church.

The 70+ guests who spent near-zero nights in the church last week were greeted and served by about 25 volunteers.  Some were church members, but others were volunteers in the community.

“We have people who might never set foot in a church, but they want to help. They come from the city, the neighborhood, some are connected with Drayton Avenue preschool. It multiplies,” said Pastor Jim Pool.

“The city wants to be helpful to the church; the church wants to be helpful to the city, and we are here to play into that, to show God’s kindness. The way we relate to the community means we’ve become a place where people want to help. It’s a way to plug into a place, to make a difference.”

The sanctuary had been cleared of pews to make way for cots for the male guests.

“Our best space is used for our neighbors,” Jim told me. There’s a clear emphasis on equalization between guests and volunteers, one visible indication being that the nametags used by volunteers were also often used by guests.

Community volunteers stepped forward to provide food for the guests.  The church footed the bill for one night and the rest came from the community. One night there was bread from Westborn Market, because the father of a volunteer named Dana works there. Another volunteer asked MBrew to give pasta and rolls, and they came through. Buddy’s Pizza’s three big bowls of salad rounded out the meal. The Henry Ford Estate sent over a big box of popcorn, and the Candlewick Shop arranged for Howe’s Bayou to cater one of the evenings.

Renaissance Vineyard serves neighbors year round in other ways. They host a food pantry and clothes closet, where those in need can call the church and make an appointment, and come away with enough food for a family for days.

Jim Pool told me, “What we’re really serving is love. People come here and find a hot meal, a warm smile, and a safe place to stay.”

Guests move from one church to the next through the Winter months, with each church doing their part.

“It’s a team effort to help our homeless neighbors. I’d like to thank all the churches involved in serving our guests as part of our Warming Center program: Emmanuel Bethel Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Genesis the Church, Starr Presbyterian Church, and Berkley Community Church, along with the Welcome Inn Day Center. Each church gives generously to help the homeless and all that’s done. It’s amazing to be part of such a team,” Pastor Pool said.

The shelter takes place the following weeks:

Emmanuel: 19 Dec-31 Dec;

RVC: 31 Dec-7 Jan;

St. Mary’s: Jan 7-21;

Genesis: 21 Jan-4 Feb;

Starr: Feb 4-11;

Berkley: 11-24 Feb

Resources for those in need can be found at

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