Church opens its doors as temperatures begin to drop

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette John Best of First United Methodist Church of Williiamsport shows one of the cots that are ready for people in the lower level of the church. The church is opening their doors to homeless people when the temperature drops below 32 degrees.

As temperatures dip on winter nights, many people find it hard to find a warm place to rest until morning. First Church, at 604 Market St., is opening its doors to those seeking shelter from the cold as part of the church’s “Code Blue Emergency Warming Center.”

This ministry of the church is open to men, women and children who are in need of a warm place to stay for the night.

Whenever the forecast is for nighttime temperatures to fall below 32 degrees, the church will open its lower level doors, near the church’s fountain and illuminated by blue lights, according to Jim Best, who with his wife Susan, is coordinating the program.

“Whenever it (the overnight forecast) is 32 degrees or lower according to the Weather Channel at 3 p.m., then the church will be open,” he said.

He said that doors will open at 9 p.m., but will close at 10 p.m. and then open again at 7:30 a.m. the next day. During that time the church provides a cot, a pillow and blanket in addition to coffee and snacks. The program which started Jan. 3 runs until March 16.

There will be three or four hosts from the church at the warming center every night.

“We are called by faith to reach out to others to do this,” Best said of this ministry of the church. “We show the love of Christ.”

The mission of First Church is to change lives, Best said, and when people are cold and in need of warmth, it opens up an opportunity to talk.

He stressed that people who come to the church in need of a warm place to rest will not be preached to.

“There are no strings attached, just come in and sleep,” he added.

The church is working with the United Way, the American Rescue Workers, Sojourner Truth and Family Promise, in addition to any group that deals with the homeless in this area to get the word out about the program.

Last year the church had tried the program for a few days when temperatures were extremely cold, but had decided to expand it this year.