(Crystal A. Proxmire, The Ferndale 115 News, Feb 1, 2012 ed.)
These are the most challenging two weeks of the year for Pastor Bob Luxon and his crew of volunteers at Renaissance Vineyard Church (1841 Pinecrest, formerly The First Baptist of Ferndale). For the first two weeks in January they host over 100 homeless guests a night, keeping them safe from winter weather, as part of South Oakland Warming Shelter.
The Shelter takes in anyone, including those who are not able to get into other shelter programs. From mid-December to mid-March, Renaissance Vineyard and 11 other congregations in the area take turns administering the South Oakland Warming Shelter program.
Most of the churches supply their own volunteers, food and hygienic items. Visitors are able to come in for dinner, sleep overnight, and have breakfast in the morning.
At Renaissance Vineyard, the Guardian Angels help with security at the church. They do bag searches and pat-downs to make sure o weapons or illegal items are brought in. They also check personal property and keep that guarded as well.
“We just want to make sure and keep safe,” said Guardian Angel Keith Privett. Privett and his wife Melissa have been volunteering with Guardian Angels in several capacities. The Angels wear red berets and are best known to walk in groups on Detroit Streets much like a neighborhood watch, “letting people know we’re here and that crime won’t be tolerated,” as Privett said.
Pastor Luxon has been organizing the shelter for the past twelve years along with his wife Denise, often with the help of family members. It requires long hours offsetting up and taking down meals, and staying up all night for a two week period each year. Plus there are over 300 volunteers that come in and help over the course of the two weeks, which requires training and direction.
“I’ve been blessed. My family’s all been through college. We have our jobs. We were raised on the poor side of town, where families helped each other. It’s hard now, so we do what we can to help as many as we can,” Pastor Luxon said. “It’s cold out there, and no one deserves to freeze or be hungry.”
Many of the homeless are newly released from jail, or have mental conditions which make it impossible for them to work or care for themselves adequately. Others are people who have lost their jobs and homes, or are separated from loved ones.
“One thing we do is we treat people like guests. We have dinner with them. We talk to them and get to know them,” Pastor Bob said. “Some come back every year. They know they can talk to me, and they know that we don’t put up with breaking the rules.”
Warren resident Adam Mancuso volunteers for the overnight shift, which is a much smaller crew than the dinner group. “Everybody’s got a story,” he said, “and a lot of times they appreciate just having someone to talk to. Some shelters are real impersonal, but as far as I’m concerned this is their home and they should feel welcomed.”
Renaissance also has Food Pantry that goes every other Monday serving a number of families, and a motorcycle ministry that is a part of the church called Bikers For Christ.
Renaissance Vinyard recently merged with First Baptist of Ferndale in order to work together. “Our membership was dropping, and they were a congregation with no place to worship, it seemed a good fit.” Find out more about Renaissance Vineyard at www.renaissancevineyardchurch