GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Volunteers from across Gallatin came together to ensure their neighbors in need have a safe place to escape the cold.
The Stay Warm Shelter opened for the first time this winter at the First Baptist Church on E. Winchester Street in Gallatin Friday night. It will be open every Friday night in January and February from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
For the last eight years, Deborah Alston has overseen the effort. She picks up residents who need a place to stay and transports them to the shelter. She also ensures there are enough food, blankets and cots for everyone who needs it. She also provides food for people who don't want to come to the shelter.
"It has grown and God has truly blessed it," said Alston, the founder of Stay Warm Shelter. "He took a little, and made a whole lot out of it."
The gym at First Baptist Church is equipped to house as many as 150 people, but the number of people who come to the shelter varies each week.
"Everybody is always super thankful for a hot meal and a warm place to stay," said Suzanne Gaffney, a volunteer from Northfield Church. "I have helped out for several years and always enjoy it."
Volunteers from Northfield Church stepped in this week to prepare a warm meal and set up the beds. Each week, a different church will help.
Since there is no permanent homeless shelter in Gallatin, Alston says the church is a critical resource. She said she has encouraged city and county officials to open a full-time facility, but nothing has worked out. She is still hopeful something will come together.
"My dream would be one day if we have our own building, you know day and night," said Alston.
Until that happens, everyone who has helped with the shelter credits Alston with helping save lives.
"These are somebody’s moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, nephews," said Derrick Jackson, pastor of First Baptist Church. "Just real people needing real love and real services. Honestly, it could be any of us. We may be one paycheck away from a catastrophe that lands us homeless."
For more information about the Stay Warm Shelter, including how to make a donation, visit Stay Warm Shelter of Gallatin on Facebook or contact First Baptist Church on Winchester Street at (615) 452-8189 or the Stay Warm Shelter at (615) 479-7784.