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Posts Tagged ‘CARITAS’

Story by Justin Pierson. Photos courtesy of CARITAS.

shelter family_250pxCARITAS (Congregations Around Richmond Involved to Assure Shelter), began in the 1980s as an all-volunteer effort to provide shelter, cots, and blankets in area churches to those in need for a week or two during the year. The participation of Richmond’s First Baptist Church in the program has been one of the largest undertakings of the Compassion Ministry for over 10 years. Volunteers have cooked meals, taken laundry home to wash, and spent time with CARITAS guests facing crisis in an effort to make a difference in our community for the Kingdom of God.

Through the years, FBC has housed those in the Men’s program during the Thanksgiving week. This grew to include caring for women during a separate week, usually during the summer. However, the constant changing of locations from one church to another each week or two became stressful to guests. In an effort to help alleviate as much stress as possible for their participants, CARITAS has decided to change their model of service for those facing homelessness.

The Healing Place

The Healing Place

The Men’s shelter program has now moved to a permanent location at the Healing Place, a drug recovery facility operated by CARITAS. The Women and Family programs are operating the same as in the past, but will move to a permanent location in 2020.

New facility rendering

New facility rendering

What do the changes mean for those at FBC who want to help? Leadership of the Men’s program would still like churches to help with meals during their assigned week, as well as the “extras” (building relationships, playing games, showing movies, putting on programs, etc.). However, since the facility now houses approximately 200 men, our specific responsibilities and schedule will be a little different. The facility does have a kitchen onsite with staff, so on our assigned week, FBC volunteers will host a Saturday evening meal. FBC will also host other evening activities during the week, as well as collect toiletry and cleaning supplies that CARITAS may need. Currently, FBC is signed up to help during the week of Thanksgiving. While we will not be hosting the Men’s program in our building, our willingness to prepare and serve food, and visit with those at the facility will be just as important a part of our Compassion Ministry.

The Women and Family’s program is still operating the same and will continue to for the next two years. However, because area churches are no longer needed to host the men, more churches have signed up to house CARITAS for women, leaving fewer weeks for FBC to help. The only weeks available this summer were during weeks when other big events had already been scheduled, so we will not be hosting this summer.

More information will be available in the coming months, but for now, take the summer off, reflect on all that we have experienced through helping with CARITAS in the past, and be ready to take on new challenges come November.

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By Brenda Andrews. Photos by Susan Brown, Win Grant and Jess Ward.

Compassion Ministry

The Food Pantry provides food for those in need, primarily the homeless. Most of the food is brought by individuals or small groups and is left in the green grocery carts located in the Park Avenue hallway.

They’re tired, hungry, dirty, but now safe. Some are loud, others quiet. Their eyes dart around the room, searching corner to corner, not sure of what to expect. Some relax at tables, chatting, drinking coffee and eating pastries. They wait their turn for items from the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry, for a shower and new underwear.
When we and our homeless friends share smiles, we see God’s love in each other and are reminded of our membership in the same family – the FBC family and God’s larger family.

Compassion Ministry

Sometimes connections are made. A man recognized another client as the father he had believed dead for nearly 50 years.

Compassion Ministry

showers-500px

Shower facilities are open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Compassion Ministry

A Compassion Ministry open house featured groceries, backpacks and sleeping bags, which are available to clients.

Compassion Ministry

Recently a woman came to the Clothes Closet in need of a pair of size 10 shoes. When none were found, one volunteer offered the size 10 shoes she was wearing.

Compassion Ministry

Compassion Ministry

Compassion Ministry

In July 2014, 40 women arrived by bus each evening for a meal, a shower, and a place to sleep. We also provided fellowship, game times, health information, and worship opportunities.

Compassion Ministry

Volunteers provided books, games, art projects and tutoring to at-risk children in Essex Village’s summer camp program.

Compassion Ministry

Mrs. Claus offered musical entertainment at a community Christmas celebration.

For information on participating in the Ministry of Christian Compassion, visit our website.

*KOH2RVA: Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia


Brenda AndrewsBrenda Lee Andrews serves as Community Missions Associate, ministering to the homeless for 12 years, after a 30-year career as a draftsman for Bell Atlantic Telephone. She has been a member of First Baptist Church since 1995. Her passion is the homeless and providing them with their needs. Her biggest joy in life is her son, Benjamin, and granddog, Iris.

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By Rebecca Ozmore. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

When First Baptist hosted CARITAS in July 2013, we didn’t get on the KOH2RVA  bus – the bus brought Richmond to us.

Most of us are familiar with CARITAS from FBC’s tradition of hosting homeless men during Thanksgiving week. Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter provides individuals overnight shelter at local churches. CARITAS was looking for additional summer hosts because it’s a difficult season for scheduling. FBC was looking for another way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia (KOH2RVA). When we heard 40 homeless women needed shelter, we opened our doors.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Overall, this week was not much different from the men’s week. The women arrived by bus each evening. We provided a meal, opportunity for a shower, and a place to sleep. We also provided toiletry bags with linens, shower items, and a request form for needed items including clothing.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.We scheduled activities each evening, blessing the women and giving them opportunities to bless others. There were presentations from the Fan Free Clinic and Richmond Police Department. On bingo night, one of the winners gave her prize of a cosmetic bag to another woman who had been hoping to win it. Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries led a praise and worship service on another night. Several of the women and volunteers commented that they were touched by FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.the service; twelve of the CARITAS women went forward at the end for prayers with the ministers.

FBC members volunteered to wash loads of laundry for the women and donate specific items, sometimes within just a few hours of an email request. One church member made 50 pillowcases, no two alike, to give each of our CARITAS guests. She attached Psalm 4:8 to the pillowcases, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (NLT).

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Many of the women expressed their gratitude for staying at the church and the delicious meals provided by FBC members. But perhaps their appreciation was best summed up by their reactions to receiving the items they had requested earlier in the week. Volunteer Vicky Nicholau commented, “Women cried when they opened their ‘Need Bags’ and received things they thought they would never get.”

Heaven was definitely at FBC during this week. And we didn’t have to take a bus ride to find it!


Rebecca OzmoreRebecca Ozmore is an elementary school counselor for Henrico County Public Schools. She and her husband, Gerry, helped start the Young Couples Adult Bible Fellowship of which they are still members. Rebecca and Gerry have two sons, Grant and Charley, who keep them very busy. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and being outdoors. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and looks forward to Hokie football every fall.

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