Giving warmth to the cold is a work of mercy parishioners of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier take seriously as they open their parish hall to homeless persons who have nowhere to go in the winter after businesses and community spaces close and before the overnight shelter opens.

St. Augustine’s is one of five churches involved in the 5 to 8 p.m. warming spaces for guests of Good Samaritan Haven/Bethany UCC Night Shelter. The hall is open during those hours on Wednesdays until mid April.

This is the first year St. Augustine’s has been involved in the warming shelter program, though the parish has long offered a free weekly lunch to people in need.

Parishioners volunteer to open the parish hall for the warming shelter, providing a meal and snack bags. It’s a place guests can drop in for a movie, board games or conversation before heading to the Montpelier shelter.

“It’s an amazing blessing to have congregations so willing to open their buildings and their hearts and welcome” those who visit the warming shelters, Judi Joy, shelter manager for Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, said of the ecumenical effort.

About 10-12 people access the warming shelter each week at St. Augustine’s.

Deb McCormick is one of dozen St. Augustine volunteers at the warming shelter, and she is involved with the parish Friday soup kitchen. “Many of the same people we see at lunchtime come to the warming shelter. I know it’s tough for them,” she said. “It’s cold in the evening, and if they didn’t have a place to go where it’s warm … they would be standing outside” in the cold as they waited for the overnight shelter to open.

“We are the Body of Christ — His hands and feet and His ears to listen,” she said.

Joy said that if a person does this type of service without a faith background “it’s easy to get burned out,” but “you get strength from your faith.”

Sue Dellipriscoli, a parishioner of St. Augustine’s who serves on the board of Barre’s Good Samaritan Haven homeless shelter, volunteers at the warming shelter, which she called “a safe, warm space” for homeless persons.

The homeless in the community is an underserved population, she said. “I’m happy to bring all of us [in the community] together to sit and get to know some of the people in our community who don’t have a home.”

Joy, a member of Bethany United Church of Christ, concluded, “As members of the faith community have come together to provide welcome, warmth and food to people in need, we have proved that loving concern for our fellow human beings is alive and thriving in Montpelier, Vermont.”

—Originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.