Since the Jackson County Cold Night Out Shelter didn’t need to operate this winter, Sondra Gentry figured out who could benefit from the supplies used the past couple of years for those needing shelter from the cold.
After devastating tornadoes ripped through the Midwest on Dec. 10, she worked out a way to get necessities to one of the hardest-hit areas in western Kentucky.
Gentry, pastor of Bethel Community Church in Seymour, started a conversation with Scott Brown, senior pastor of Reddington Christian Church, on Dec. 16 sharing what she wanted to do.
“When there’s a need, it’s a need right then as well as a need in the future. I think there are other groups that provide in the future, but right now, what do you do?” Gentry said.
“She was talking about renting a U-Haul, and I just thought, ‘Man, you don’t need to do that expense. I know guys. We can get that stuff,’” Brown said.
The next night, he had a 24-foot trailer and a secondary 12-foot trailer outside Gentry’s church at Calvin Boulevard and Fourth Street to give people an opportunity to stop by within an hour’s time with donations.
“Clean bedding and clothing, toiletries, candles, flashlights, nonperishable food, batteries — pretty much any thing you can think of that they could use,” Brown said.
Then for another hour early the morning of Dec. 18, Brown collected items before he and one of his church members took the large trailer to a central donation collection site in Mayfield, Kentucky.
Along with items donated by people from both churches, the delivery included donations from Seymour Harvest Church and First Church of God.
“It’s just trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s just love in action,” Brown said. “I think it’s good when congregations get together and try to do these things. When I was talking to (Gentry), it’s just kind of God laying on my heart.”
Local churches worked together in recent years with the Cold Night Out Shelter, too. That provided night and day shelter for homeless individuals, and churches took turns serving as the host site each week in the winter.
This year, though, with Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry opening a second shelter on the east side of Seymour for emergency housing needs for individuals and families in Jackson County, Gentry determined it wasn’t necessary for the Cold Night Out Shelter to operate.
Anchor House Executive Director Megan Cherry told Gentry the east shelter has plenty of beds available.
“There’s no reason we should put up 24 beds when we have 40 there. I don’t want to duplicate that,” Gentry said. “If something happened and we needed to open up more slots, we would do that, but I don’t think there’s a need.”
She said it didn’t make sense for Cold Night Out to keep its beds here when there were people in Kentucky who could use them. Along with cots, Cold Night Out delivered all of its towels, blankets, toiletries, clothes and even a rocking chair and a baby stroller this past weekend.
If the Cold Night Out Shelter reopens in the future, Gentry said they would just get some more cots and other things needed.
While in operation the past couple of years, the shelter also received donations of cars and bicycles for residents to get back and forth to work, helped them pay for medical and dental visits, transported people to get identifications and documents and sent people to school.
“Whatever Seymour needs to have done, I think we’ll still do that,” Gentry said. “We want to see what’s not covered and then we would try to do that. Some of our people that went through two years ago, they still call us. We still want to talk with them.”
Brown said if donations for the tornado victims continue to come in, he would make a second trip to Kentucky.
Gentry said people also could donate items to The Point in Seymour because a collection is underway there, and soon, that church is sending a team of volunteers to serve in the areas in greatest need, most likely Kentucky.
She’s just glad to see local churches continue to come together for those in need.
“I think right now, people really need to see faith in action, and you can see the churches working together. That’s so important,” Gentry said. “It’s amazing what Seymour will do.”