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Posted: July 3, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Residents help homeless in D.C.

Submitted photo/

Members of Rainbow Covenant Church and Ministries decided that helping the homeless in Newton County wasn’t enough, so they traveled to Washington, D.C., to help the homeless there.

On June 20, about 20 church and shelter members, mostly from Rainbow’s youth group, traveled to McPherson Square in Washington, D.C., for the annual Night of Hope, a day-long event dedicated to the city’s homeless population. Around 200 volunteers from around Washington, D.C., and surrounding states served the homeless by preparing meals, washing feet, cutting nails and hair, providing new clothing, evangelizing and simply talking to them.

Local volunteer Ashley Derricho said she was excited for the trip, but at first was skeptical about the feet washing portion of the event.

"But when you sit down and do it and see the joy on people’s faces, it was a wonderful experience," Derricho said. "It was nice to sit down and talk to them and make them feel good. One man was so happy because he said it had been a year since he had his toe nails cut."

The homeless attendees received meals from Smokey Bones Bar and Fire Grill, showers in a special shower truck, a new change of clothes and a backpack full of sundry items, including towels, toothpaste and a toothbrush, hats, socks and notebooks, Derricho said.

Lynda Watt, organizer of the event, said about 400 homeless people were served on June 20. Covington Homeless Shelter Director Clara Lett said that more than 6,200 homeless people live in the section of Washington, D.C., where the event took place and about 1,300 live in supported housing in that section.

The event was sponsored by Woodbridge Church of the Nazarene in Woodbridge, Va., and the volunteers attended a church service there after the Night of Hope, before heading back home. Watt said Woodbridge Church has done monthly events for the homeless for several years, and they have been holding Nights of Hope every June since 2003.

Watt said Rainbow Covenant Church became involved, because its pastors were looking for ice cream after attending a convention in Washington, D.C., last year and stumbled across one of the church’s monthly events. The pastors learned about the program and church members came for the Night of Hope event in 2008 and again this year.

A video of the event can be seen at streats.tv, the Web site of a homeless non-profit organization.

In related news, the Garden of Gethsemane homeless shelter, located at 7133 Turner Lake Circle, will have it’s grand opening on July 25 at 9 a.m. Tours will be available between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Lett said the shelter has housed nearly 6,000 people since it opened in September 2001.

Lett said one shelter resident has already received a job doing grading work at the General Mills plant site in Social Circle.

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