By Jim Nieman
Volunteers at Gardenside Christian Church recently finished their sixth winter of helping the homeless population in Lexington, Ky.
Gardenside is one of about two dozen churches in the city that participates in the Room in the Inn ministry, says church member Karl VanDyke Jr. Gardenside houses a dozen homeless men on Tuesday nights, twice monthly, during the winter.
“We provide everything they need,” VanDyke says.
This past winter, 130 Gardenside volunteers were at work seven separate nights. The final tally showed the church provided 84 beds, along with 84 dinners, breakfasts, and brown-bag lunches.
VanDyke says volunteers pick up the homeless men in the evening at about 6 and bring them back to the church, where they are served a hot dinner. The men stay in an auxiliary building at the church that includes a kitchen and gymnasium. Shower facilities are available, and the church provides all toiletries. In the morning, volunteers bring in a variety of breakfast items. After the morning meal, volunteers drive the homeless men to a central busing area or to some other place that they request.
The church also provides specialty greeting cards (along with the stamps to mail them) so the men can keep in touch with their families and loved ones.
Other volunteers include set-up and clean-up crews.
VanDyke says Gardenside, which averages about 235 weekly, has no trouble filling the volunteer slots.
“I think everyone in the church realizes what a great need this is,” he says, adding that volunteers find the work very fulfilling.
The homeless men are screened to ensure they are alcohol-free and drug-free before heading out to the church, VanDyke says. The men are appreciative of the help and are well-behaved.
Room in the Inn was started in 1985 in Nashville, Tenn., by Father Charles Strobel. A number of cities now participate in the ministry. Lexington has been a part of Room in the Inn for about 15 years.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.