With temperatures dipping into the teens last week, Whosoever Community Church opened its doors for overnight shelter to homeless people who usually seek refuge in abandoned buildings or wooded areas. They slept on church pews or on the floor in sleeping bags. Matthew Davis, who pastors along with Kevin Hatchell, said they had 14 people sleep over on Monday night, 16 on Tuesday and 11 on Wednesday. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the church provided meals and stayed open both nights for those who needed a warm place to sleep.
The church, which ministers to homeless street people in the city, was established in June of last year. Bible studies and worship services were held in a barber shop on East Palmetto Street until a permanent home was found at 356 W. NB Baroody Street. Bible studies are conducted at 10 a.m. Tuesday mornings, 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings and 1:30 p.m. on Sundays. Davis conducts the bible studies and Hatchell preaches most Sundays. Meals follow each of the services. Davis works at Calvary Baptist Church as the grounds and property manager.
Hatchell is a physical therapist. Davis had volunteered with the parking lot ministry conducted on Saturdays for about a year. After not having much success trying to bring street people to his church for an Easter breakfast, he realized the need to take the church to the people. God planted the idea for this church for the homeless, he said. So they began hosting services in the barber shop while looking for a permanent meeting place. There was no money – everyone serving were, and still are, volunteers. The Church of Florence and Rocky Pearce came to the rescue by purchasing and donating the building for this church.
In mid November, the church moved into the little white building on NB Baroody Street (a few lots down from the corner of Coit and Baroody, the site of the old bus station.) The church is open to everyone, but Davis estimates 80 percent of the congregation is homeless. The small church building is equipped with a small kitchen. Plans are to install a washer and dryer for the homeless to use. They also hope to install a shower. The response to this ministry has been heartwarming, Davis said. Support has come from local churches, including First Presbyterian, Central United Methodist, Calvary Baptist, First Baptist and Pee Dee Community Fellowship (which meets in the Julia 4 Theaters), along with local organizations and individuals.
Members at Calvary Baptist Church have donated hygiene kits including soap, towel, toothbrush, toothpaste and other items which are handed out to those in need. Pee Dee Christian Bookstore donated 500 bibles to be distributed. First Baptist Church donated 32 sleeping bags to give to the homeless. Stefano’s has provided meals, along with Pee Dee Community Fellowship which hosted dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Individuals have given items to be distributed to the homeless, including tents, blankets, clothes, toys, diapers and wipes. Some gave gifts to the church in lieu of Christmas presents to family.
A lady from Florida heard about the church and sent a donation. It has been so cool watching how God has supplied needs, Davis said, adding that many times they got a load of something days before they even knew they needed it. When they get more than they need, they share with other helping organizations, The worship services have been wonderful, Davis said, with multiple salvations. They have been averaging 30 to 50 people. Helping with worship services on Sundays are Jennifer Thompson Stewart, who leads the music, Kevin Mitchell who plays guitars and Judy Jordan who is in charge of outreach. Chris Franco plans to begin preaching on the third Sunday of each month. Look for Whosoever Community Church on Facebook.