Volunteers form Fresh Start Resource Center of Smyrna after experiences at Code Purple cold weather homeless shelters, to help meet basic needs for people who need assistance regardless of the weather.
A group of volunteers from Smyrna’s Code Purple cold weather shelter want to provide a permanent place in town where people in need can find help with basic needs, from food and clothes to a place to take a shower and print a resumé for a job application.
The volunteers are planning to incorporate as a nonprofit group and buy a building for the “Fresh Start Resource Center of Smyrna.”
“Even though we plan to partner with Code Purple and other established resources in town, we decided that it would be more efficient for us to stand on our own,” said Donna Carroll, the group’s director.
Carroll has been volunteering at the Code Purple shelter at Centennial United Methodist Church for three years. The shelter is open on nights when the temperature is 32 degrees or colder.
Carroll said she and other volunteers appreciate all the donations of food and clothes from the community, but there was no place to store them or an easy way to give the food and clothes to people on nights when the shelter wasn’t open.
“We were giving out food in the church parking lot and now we’re doing that at the American Legion, but we’re looking for one place that can be permanent, so people will know where to go for help,” said Carroll.
Officials from the Town of Smyrna are advising the volunteers in their efforts to open a resource center in town.
At the group’s meeting Feb. 28 at Town Hall, Councilman Alvin Pope offered suggestions for what to look for in a potential building – and pitfalls to avoid.
“Then we need to start thinking about fundraising and letting folks know what the vision is,” said Pope. “We probably need to start a Facebook page. A lot of people would help. We just need to communicate what the needs are.”
(SUBHED) What would the center provide?
Carroll said a resource center could be open during the day throughout the year, not just during cold weather, providing food, clothes, and possibly a place to take a shower and wash clothes.
“We have laid out a series of basic needs offerings we would like to put into effect for not only our homeless, but those needing help with various things like access to computers and printers, help with job applications…hopefully provide one simple meal a day, a place to receive mail for those who don't have an address. We have a lot of ideas of how we can serve the community,” she said.
One of those ideas is providing a locker for a person who is homeless, so they could store items safely.
“We might be able to be the address people use,” said Carroll.
Another idea is offering health screenings at the center.
“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel because there are many services available in town, but sometimes you just need help and we could be the place that has the answers,” said Carroll. “We can help you figure out how to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’”
Carroll said she’s talked with people who just needed a way to get to an appointment, but didn’t have enough money for a bus ticket.
“Then they miss their appointment and things spiral downward from there,” said Carroll. “Maybe they couldn’t report to the Division of Probation and Parole or they needed to get to a job interview or an appointment at a state service center.”
“People are willing to donate money for bus passes, and this resource center could be the place to connect the donations with the people who need them,” said Carroll. “We would expect accountability, though. We would check if the person using the bus pass was going to the appointments. We would ask the person to tell us how they did. When someone is at the center, they can help by picking up a broom, and feeling like they’re contributing and giving something back. We want to be a support system and see it through so that people can get back on their feet again.”
Fundraisers being planned
The organizers of Fresh Start Resource Center of Smyrna will be holding fundraisers in the coming months and also will be applying for grants.
“We hope people will be familiar with our name and what we’re trying to do,” said Carroll. “Right now, financial contributions are the biggest need as we try to buy a building.”
Before accepting any donations, though, the group members are planning to open a bank account once the Fresh Start Resource Center is incorporated and approved as a nonprofit 501c3 organization.
“Then we’ll be announcing our fundraisers,” Carroll said.