Members of First Baptist Church are warming the world a few people at a time.
The church's 9th annual Warm the World event will take place Nov. 18 beginning at 8 p.m.
It was the brainchild of church member Scottie Percise, who would always see people on her way to church who were walking up and down the streets and huddling up under the overpass trying to keep warm.
"Every week I just kept hearing God say, 'You can do something about this,'" she said.
And she did.
Ms. Percise told her Sunday school class about an idea she had of handing out coats and blankets to the homeless the beginning of November, when it was starting to get cold outside. Her class got onboard with the idea.
"We decided we were going to do something to try and help some of these people in the downtown area," Ms. Percise said. "We set it up and collected some coats."
The coats were placed on tables in the church fellowship hall for the homeless to pick out what they needed.
"We probably had 10 people show up," Ms. Percise said. "I thought it just didn't work. But the class really wanted to do it again the next year. So we continued to do it."
It grew from 10 that first year to around 500 in the following years. And not only does it help the homeless today, but it also helps families who have a home, but maybe can't afford electricity or warm coats and blankets for themselves and their children.
It got so big that other Sunday school classes at First Baptist were asked to help, and eventually spread to the whole church.
"I never thought it would be as big as it is now," Ms. Percise said. "God's just been amazing."
Not only is the project helping those in need, but it's also helping the church members bond with one another.
"It's interesting to see how it's become a fine-tuned machine with the logistics," said church member Sherry Archibald. "Now we fill the gym up and have to borrow racks from businesses to use."
And a few years ago, the church was able to start providing a meal to those coming for warm coats and blankets.
"We are able to nourish them and also nourish them spiritually because our church members have the privilege of being able to sit down with them and talk to them," Mrs. Archibald said. "Everyone helps with feeding, serving, helping find coats, giving out numbers and translating languages."
The church discovered that breakfast casseroles are the way to go to feed those attending the event.
"We have each Sunday school class provide an ingredient," Mrs. Archibald said. "A group comes in and prepares the casseroles the night before the event and puts them in the refrigerator. Then they come in at 6 a.m. that morning and get the casseroles prepared."
People start lining up early for the 8 a.m. event.
"Last year we asked the first person in line how long he'd been there and he said he'd been standing outside since 2 a.m.," Mrs. Archibald said.
Once the doors open at 8 a.m., each person is given a number as he or she enters. They eat breakfast in the fellowship hall and are taken a few at a time into the gym to pick out coats, hats, gloves, blankets and sleeping bags. They also receive a Bible.
"There are a lot of families that don't have coats and are covering up with just a sheet," Mrs. Archibald said. "If it's a cold night, that's not good. This event reminds us that our family of faith is not just those in the church that Sunday, but also those outside those four walls."
Ms. Percise said the event has made her more mindful of how blessed she is.
"It's really been eye opening," she said. "I usually work in the gym and one lady last year came when there was just one comforter left. She was so excited over that comforter. Her grandchildren were sleeping on the bed with her. But now she could make a pallet on the floor for them. The whole family was sleeping together in one bed. Things we take for granted mean so much to these people."
Anyone or any business who would like to donate gently used or new coats, hats, gloves, blankets and sleeping bags to Warm the World can drop them off at First Baptist Church Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If there is a big donation, the church can provide volunteers to pick up the donation. Just call the church at 919-735-2516.