Have faith: Keeping warm

Houses of Grace and community suppers spread warmth Island-wide.

Brenda Piland prepares her plate at a previous community supper. —Larisa Stinga

The busyness of the holidays is over, and we’re into single-digit temperatures. The Island Clergy Association is helping those who need a place to get in out of the cold, and they can almost always use more volunteers — those who go to church and those who aren’t affiliated with any religion.

Good Shepherd Parish hosts a warming center from 11 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday in the basement of the parish center at 55 School St., across from Oak Bluffs Town Hall. Les Holcomb has spearheaded efforts there, along with organizing the backpack food program offered to approximately 70 students in Island schools. Les could use some volunteers at the warming center. To find out how you can help, call Good Shepherd Parish at 508-693-0342.

The Houses of Grace winter shelter program is open for business, but they’re in need of volunteers to sign up for slots that are still open in January. Two volunteers are required for each shift: 6:30 pm to 9 pm and the 8:30 pm to 7 am overnight shift. Dory Godfrey, a volunteer and one of the organizers of Houses of Grace, told me that they expect more guests to use the free service this year.

The shelter locations (see end of article) open at 7 pm, and the doors close at 8 pm. Guests receive a hot meal for dinner and a high-protein breakfast before leaving at 7 am.

“We do anticipate more people using the shelter this year,” she said. “We’ve used Facebook to reach out to people who might use the service.”

House rules, she said, are about treating volunteers and residents alike with respect. “This is our third year, and it’s been as rewarding for all the volunteers as it is for those who use the shelter. It’s been a great experience; volunteers come from all over the Island.”

If you think you can help out with this grassroots program, call St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown (508-627-5330) and they’ll assist you in setting up time for training before you begin.

Besides Houses of Grace, the Community Suppers begin this month as well. There’s a free hot meal served every day of the week (see end of article) at Island places of worship, beginning this week. These community opportunities to break bread offer much more than a delicious home-cooked meal; they’re a chance to meet your neighbors and socialize during the darker days of winter.

At St. Augustine’s Church, Father Mike Nagle is happy to report that work on the lift at the church should be complete within a couple of weeks, allowing the church to welcome those with accessibility issues into the downstairs portion of the building, where community suppers are held.

“We said we wanted to put the lift in and asked people to contribute; we raised about $76,000 in around six months,” Father Nagle said.

Gail Burke at the parish said that resident Chef Joe Capobianco uses whatever is in abundance through the Boston Food Bank and the gleaners from Thimble Farm and Morning Glory Farm to create the weekly community supper. “We have volunteers who bring in desserts, and Bite on the Go supplies us with soup,” Ms. Burke said. “Volunteers assist us in the serving and cleanup.” She added that a few more volunteers would be nice to have for the cleanup portion of the evening.

The community suppers also help feed those at the Houses of Grace. Food from the suppers is trekked to whichever location is hosting the shelter.

Good Shepherd Parish relies on donations to support its community supper program, and they’ve received help from the Permanent Endowment, the St. Vincent dePaul Society, and from the Tzedakah Fund at the Hebrew Center.

“This year our oven quit, so we wouldn’t mind donations to help with that,” Ms. Burke said. She said they replaced it with a used oven, but that costs could be offset by donations.

Island Clergy work year-round to help those in need in the community, and this time of year, their light really shines.

Shelter locations: Federated Church on Monday and Thursday nights, St. Augustine’s in Vineyard Haven on Wednesday nights, and St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

Community meals: The Federated Church in Edgartown hosts a lasagna lunch from 12:30 to 2 pm on Sundays; St. Andrew’s Church hosts the community supper on Mondays at 5 pm; Chilmark Community Church hosts on Tuesdays at 5:30 pm; the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury hosts on Wednesdays at 5:30 pm; St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven hosts on Thursdays at 5 pm; Grace Church in Vineyard Haven hosts on Fridays at 5 pm, and the United Methodist Church at the Campground in Oak Bluffs hosts on Saturdays at 5:30 pm.

If you have news for “Have Faith,” email connie@mvtimes.com.