Americus-- A Sumter County church is helping alleviate homelessness in South Georgia. They transformed an old sanctuary into a saving grace for hundreds of people. First, it housed Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Now, their doors remain open to continue making a change.
From the outside, a cross against a blue sky gives many a sign of hope in Americus. "That's what the church should be about," says Reverend Melvin McCluster. And on the inside of the old location for Friendship Baptist Church, you can see that it's about more than religion. It's about change.
"We've transformed it from a sanctuary into a homeless shelter," says McCluster. That's what brought Henry Lane to the Friends on a Mission Relief Center. "I guess it was just the will of God that sent me here," says Lane.
He's here after life sent him in some wrong directions. "I had been on the run, out there doing things I shouldn't have been doing, messing up, drugs, drinking," says Lane. But now he found relief from all of that. The shelter provides people a temporary place to stay, employment help and two hot meals a day from shelter chef Leroy Smith.
"It's just a holy ground," says Smith. It's a holy ground with eight rooms and plenty of beds but Shelter Director Ruby Smith says sometimes their clients need more than just a good night's sleep.
"I cry with them when they need to cry. I pray with them when they need to pray, whatever their needs are," says Smith. Sometimes someone just needs a helping hand from a complete stranger.
"Like the man on the Jericho highway, it's easier for some folks to look the other way and pass by on the other side but it takes a whole lot of heart to pick a brother or sister up," says McCluster.
"They can't do it alone. I couldn't do it alone," says Lane. Lane wonders where he would be without the help he received at the shelter.
"That's a good question. I don't think I would have my life where it is today," says Lane. Since he was led here, he says something kept him here. He's now the Shelter Supervisor overseeing daily duties and being an inspiration to other people who now walk through the door.
"I'm going to be a blessing, yes I am," says Lane. A new change that began with some hope and the belief that an old church could help make that change.
The shelter is run on what Reverend McCluster calls faith and donations. Right now, they need donations and volunteers. They have an account set up with Peoples Community Bank in Americus under the name Friends on a Mission Relief Center.
Donations can be made into that account. People can also call 229-924-2700 to donate items or volunteer.