On a warm summer day two young men wait by the door of The Gathering Place as it prepares to open. They’re dressed to the nines, one in a suit, the other in a tie and trench coat. They are joyful, polite, and friendly. They also happen to be near-homeless.
Last week, I had the chance to visit with these two men as they settled into their morning routine at The Gathering Place. One opened the paper, upset to read about the tragic murder of a baby in a town thirty miles north. The other munched on an apple while commenting on the days’ headlines. They grabbed a cup of coffee and talked about their new attire, which they received from the Seventh Day Adventist Clothing Center. They said it felt good to be dressed up.
And I have to say there was something good about being at The Gathering Place. It is a sanctuary where folks come for quiet solitude and fellowship, the newspaper and coffee, a friendly smile and a dash of hope.
The Gathering Place is a drop-in day center in Brunswick, Maine. They’re open from 9 to 3 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. They offer a warm and friendly place to spend time in relaxation or conversation in a stress-free environment.
It is an ecumenical ministry that came about when a number of Brunswick faith communities identified a need to provide a safe and friendly space for the homeless or near-homeless during the day. Since opening their doors in February 2011, there have been over 12,000 visits.
The Rev. Chick Carroll, who helps run The Gathering Place, says that they’re growing at a steady pace. With 30-40 visitors per day in the summer, and 60-70 visitors per day in the winter. Rev. Carroll recognizes that this is a sad truth, but he is happy that they can be a place of sanctuary that welcomes all who enter their doors.
Rev. Carroll said the most wonderful surprise in this ministry has been the relationships that have developed between guests and volunteers. Many volunteers initially began to serve because they wanted to help the poor in their community. As they’ve built relationships with the guests, they’ve realized the poor are their brothers and sisters in Christ. Another benefit of the experience to both volunteer and guest, is seeing churches work jointly and joyfully together.
The Gathering Place is located at 84B Union Street at the Seventh-day Adventist Clothing Center, near the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. If you know someone who might benefit from stopping by, please invite them.
Want to help? They welcome volunteers who can listen and that are willing to grow. Just give them a call to find out more.
Want to contribute? Just give them a call to find out more.