Bethel A.M.E. opening shelter doors in time for NYE

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SCRANTON (WOLF) -- Dozens filled the pews at Bethel A.M.E. Church this New Year’s Eve, volunteering themselves to help staff the church’s night shelter.

Pastor Darian Banks says that the church operated a shelter from November 2016 until April of this year, but decided not to this winter because of a lack of volunteers.

“We elected in June not to open up the shelter, but then the Lord put it on my heart to open up the shelter because it was too cold for people to be out there,” Banks said.

On Friday, church leaders made the decision to reopen the shelter on an emergency basis.

“And then when I opened it up you had people like Marty Henehan, they all came out and said hey, we’re going to bring a force with us. And that’s what its all about – its about helping people.”

Henehan’s organization, called the Forever Sammi Foundation, focuses on random acts of kindness benefiting those affected by addiction.

He says many of those people are affected by homelessness as well and is grateful to Bethel for opening its doors.

Some of the Forever Sammi members signed up for shelter shifts at tonight’s meeting, 10 p.m. until 8 a.m.

“They have the formula already in place. They just simply need the manpower and we’re just simply here to say tell us what tables to move, tell us what chairs to move and we’ll move them. And whatever they need us to do, we’ll be more than happy to be there for them,” Henehan said.

And thanks to today’s volunteer turnout, all of the cots in Bethel’s basement will be full tonight.

The original plan was for the shelter to open on the 1st, but the outpouring of support from the community allows Bethel to open its doors one day sooner.

Church leaders say they plan to keep the shelter open on an emergency basis until January 31.

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