The idea behind the Winter Relief Center came to Dana and Sally Perkins during a Gereral Conference 2011 session. (Photo courtesy of Mark Crosby)
Dana and Sally Perkins of New Beginnings FMC in Butler, Pennsylvania, couldn’t stop thinking about winter weather as they left a general conference session on a warm day in July 2011. They didn’t know the details, but they knew God gave them an idea to do something about homelessness in their community.
They wondered: “How are we to do this as a little church with no extra funds?” But their faith in a mighty God was magnified. Within a couple of weeks, the determined couple had about 30 volunteers and $400.
With a lot of heart but not much money, church members reached out to area agencies. They kept coming back empty-handed until they met Amanda Feltenberger, director of service integration and quality management for Butler County Human Services. Feltenberger made calls and connected them with the Grace Youth and Family Foundation.
On Dec. 1, 2011, the Winter Relief Center opened for the first time. With limited funding, it could only open when the temperature was below a certain level. That winter, the center served 15 individuals over 18 nights with a total of 37 stays. For the 2012–13 season, the temperature threshold was raised, allowing for more open nights and more people off the streets. During that season, the center served 57 individuals over 80 nights with a total of 131 stays.
The center was still not open enough to satisfy the need. For the 2013–14 season, the committee decided to open fulltime from Nov. 16, 2013, to March 31, 2014. The Winter Relief Center served 84 individuals over 133 nights with a total of 629 stays.
This ministry continues to grow because of partnerships with other churches and businesses. God used general conference to reveal a plan to serve a community, and His followers continue to obey His call.
Mark Crosby is the assistant pastor of New Beginnings FMC in the Pittsburgh Conference.