Rev. Charlene H. Sullivan (left) with one of the volunteers at My Father’s House. SUBMITTED

The homeless community of Robertson County and anyone else who may have fallen on hard times will once again have an opportunity at respite from the cold weather for the next several months.

Beginning its fourth year of operation, My Father’s House, a cold weather shelter in Springfield opened its doors last week for anyone in need of a warm place to sleep and a hot meal.

For Rev. Charlene H. Sullivan, pastor at Wartrace United Methodist Church and director of My Father’s House, one of the main concerns the shelter is focused on is making sure there are enough volunteers to accommodate its overnight guests.

So far, the shelter has had over 20 volunteers trained, and just completed their third training session last Saturday at the old Armory building on the fairgrounds in Springfield. Sullivan says that they had roughly 60 volunteers last year and are hoping that some of them will return this year.

“Right now, I think our hardest thing is looking for volunteers,” Sullivan said. “We would love to find possibly a man and a woman, people that could spend the night possibly four or five nights a week for a small salary. Maybe for someone that’s on a fixed income and wants to make a little extra money or needs a place to stay temporarily. It’s hard to find volunteers that like to spend the night, because most people have jobs and have to get up the next day to go to work.”

While Sullivan’s church, Wartrace UMC, plays a significant role in the maintenance of the shelter, the work has been a collaborative effort for several churches across Springfield.

In the first two years of My Father’s House, churches signed up and volunteered, ranging from one night to an entire week at a time. They hosted guests on their campus and then supplied their own volunteers and meals.

Today, the shelter has it own permanent location at the Armory building and is run by a board of members from several different churches and denominations. They encourage anyone to volunteer, regardless of them attending a church or not.

“I actually wasn’t a pastor when this all started,” Sullivan said. “In the very beginning it was a group of different churches that came together and saw the need and put it together. The pastor at the church I was at, he approached a group of us that wanted to start it, and I got involved that way. The second year I took over as director and we formed a board.”

Among the main things that the shelter provides is a warm place to sleep and take a shower. A hot evening meal is provided, as well as breakfast the next morning. Aside from these amenities, Sullivan says that the shelter has been able to help people get back on their feet by finding a job or their own place to stay.

“Some people want the help and they’re just there temporarily from a bad situation,” she said. “Of course, for some that’s just how they’re going to live, and they don’t want to do anything else. We try to pinpoint the ones we can help and aim them in the right direction and get them the right resources that they might need.

“But the main thing we’re providing is a hot meal, a warm place to sleep, and a place to take a shower. It’s hard to go look for a job if you can’t take a shower and put on clean clothes.”

As director, Sullivan’s inspiration for devoting her time to the shelter is based on her own personal life experience, which has given her the drive to lend support for people with similar experiences.

“I enjoy helping people,” she said. “At one point I was a single parent. That was years ago, I’m 63 now. If it had not been for a supportive family and a supportive church family, even though I had a decent job, it wasn’t enough to make ends meet. A lot of these people don’t have a church family to support them or help them. It can be a rough spot. But I just feel a strong urge to help people that find themselves in difficult situations and don’t know how to get out.”

My Father’s House is currently planned to be opened until the end of February and could extend their schedule into March depending on the weather.

All interested volunteers must complete a training session and have a background check. The cost is $10 per person. Once these are passed, volunteers will receive an email with a link to sign up.

Those looking for more information on My Father’s House can contact Rev. Charlene H. Sullivan at P.O. Box 973, Springfield, TN 37172 or 615-389-1844.

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