With nighttime temperatures falling into the low and mid 20’s, First Baptist Church has run up the white flag.
Rather than surrender, the flag signifies that the church on Roy Kidd Ave. near the Corbin Library is offering shelter from the cold to those in need.
The church is offering the shelter in the form of vouchers for a room at a local hotel along with a ride to the room. The offer will be available through March on any night that the temperature is forecast to drop to 29 degrees or below.
Before taking the ride, volunteers will open up the new White Flag Ministry House where they will have prepared a meal that is free.
The church purchased the former Phoenix House and neighboring Rainbow House buildings on Roy Kidd Ave. The Rainbow Connection building was converted for use as the White Flag Ministry House.
The building includes a large community room, kitchen bathrooms and side rooms.
The meal will be served beginning at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, whether or not the temperature drops below the 29-degree threshold.
“We will be handing out sack lunches on Saturday and Sunday,” said Pastor Austin Carty.
Carty said a social worker would also be available to meet with residents to do some case management work.
The social worker would be available in one of the side rooms to allow privacy during the meetings.
“The reason we are able to do this is we have had so much community response to the ministry. People who are willing to donate food and who come to help,” he said.
Carty said donations, whether they are in the form of non-perishable food, or monetary, are welcome and appreciated. Donations may be brought to the church office on Laurel Ave.
Monetary donations may also be made through the church’s website, www.corbinfbc.org.
Donations are tax-deductible.
The church has received financial help with the program from the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center company.
Carty said company officials contacted the church in June to say it was giving $60,000 over the next three years in support the White Flag Ministry.
“They said they had heard about us and that it was the kind of work they wanted to support,” Carty said when asked how the church received the donation.
The Corbin Public Library recently received a similar donation from the company as part of the company’s commitment to give back in celebration of its 60th anniversary.
Carty said the company’s donation would cover half of the $40,000 annual cost of the White Flag Ministry.
“We want this to be an on-going ministry,” Carty said in explaining why the church is using just a portion of the company’s donation to fund operations this year.
Carty emphasized that donations of any size are welcome and encouraged, explaining that is how the ministry will succeed.
“The way we had a successful season last year was because so many people gave gifts. All of those add up to a wonderful ministry,” Carty said.
Carty said this marks the second year the church has operated this ministry.
Last winter, the ministry provided 180 hotel room vouchers and served 1,012 meals.
“The folks we served and housed ranged in age from 4-months to 82 years old,” Carty said.
“One of the reasons we set out to do this is because we, as a church, see things that folks otherwise don’t see. We knew that there were lots of folks that didn’t have anywhere to go on these cold nights,” he said.
“We were shocked by the response that our ministry got. We felt that we may see three or four people on a given night,” Carty noted. “We averaged about 25 people a night.”
Carty said it was a combination of individuals and families.
“I imagine that we will see just as many, if not more people this year.”
The ministry will operate through early March, but Carty said that may be extended depending on the weather.
“We want to do it through whenever the temperatures stop dropping into the 20’s,” Carty said.
Carty said First Baptist Church is working with nearby Central Baptist Church in Corbin to ensure those who come into the White Flag Ministry have adequate clothing.
Carty explained that Central Baptist Church has an established clothing ministry, making it more sensible for the two churches to work together instead of competing for resources.
“They already know what they are doing when it comes to running the clothing ministry,” Carty said of Central Baptist Church, asking anyone that has suitable items to donate them there.