JACKSONVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) – Up until two weeks ago, Jacksonville did not have a place the homeless could stay when temperatures dipped below freezing.
Bethel Baptist Church in Jacksonville decided to change that by opening its facility to anyone that needs it. This happened after Mayor Gary Fletcher sent out a memo to all the churches in town to see if any of them could open up to keep the homeless warm.
"Just come to our door. Everybody's welcome. No matter whom,” Roy Dellinger said.
Dellinger volunteers almost every day at Bethel Baptist Church. He sometimes stays overnight so the homeless have a place to sleep.
"We just feel sorry for [them],” he said. “They need a place. There's people right now we know behind Lowe's, behind the garbage dump."
The church opening its doors makes this Jacksonville's first warming center.
"Everybody that comes here, we offer them a sleeping bag and a pillow and blankets,” Dellinger said.
Running the center has proven to be a challenge because it requires a lot of time and money. The center desperately needs volunteers and food donations.
"We were starting to get flustered because we couldn't get any volunteers. We tried for weeks and nobody would,” Dellinger said.
Dellinger and the other volunteers pay for most of the food out of their own pockets.
"I have to do something to feed them. I don't have to but I want to,” he said. “Last night I cooked chili and they loved it!”
The center runs out of Dale Wilson Fellowship Hall, next door to Bethel Baptist Church. The church pays for the water, electricity and gas.
“They gave us a place to use, to help them,” Dellinger said.
Glenn Fiscus also helped start the center and said he saw a need for this is Jacksonville. He is one of about four other people who volunteer their time.
He said not a lot of people in Jacksonville know Bethel Baptist is offering a place for the homeless.
"So, if you know anybody that needs a place, tell them where we're at,” Fiscus said.
The church stays open overnight when temperatures dip below 35 degrees. It also serves breakfast and dinner every single day from at beginning at 7 a.m. and at 7 p.m..
When the center does stay open for the night, women and children are allowed to stay on the first floor. Men sleep on the second floor.
Dellinger said the center will continue to stay open for as long as possible.
"When the summer months get here, we haven't determined how hot, but we will be open for the summer months also,” he said.
If you would like to make a donation or would like to sign-up to volunteer, call Roy Dellinger at 501-944-4705.
You can drop off donations at Bethel Baptist Church, located at 112 N Jeff Davis Ave in Jacksonville.