Confirmation Class Meets Homelessness, Virtually

COVID-19 has moved more than school classes and church services online.

Confirmation classes — a cross between the two — are now conducted virtually too.

Traditionally, Greens Farms Congregational’s confirmation class has taken a couple of faith adventure/field trips to local ministry partners or community service organizations, to see how they make a difference. They’ve got a long history of supporting Homes with Hope, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Pivot House in Bridgeport and Norwalk’s Open Door Shelter.

This year, the class planned a trip to the Gillespie Center. They’d bring canned foods, take a tour of the downtown homeless shelter, and meet the clients.

But with everyone isolating at home now, Rev. Dave Stambaugh had to get creative.

He and Helen McAlinden — the president and CEO of Homes with Hope, Gillespie’s umbrella organization — devised a virtual tour.

Helen McAlinden leads a Zoom tour of the Gillespie Center.

With the confirmands and their parents on a Zoom conference, Helen literally walked everyone through the center.

She showed the men’s and women’s living quarters, dining room and food pantry. Helen explained the causes of homelessness, and what happens to clients after they leave the shelter.

The teenagers asked questions: How long does someone stay there? Are any of the clients actually from Westport? How does COVID-19 affect homeless people?

“It was wonderful,” Helen says. “Everyone was very interested. And we had been worried about how to get a young lad in a wheelchair upstairs. This way, he was included with everything we did.”

She was particularly glad to hear one question: “How can we help?” She gave the confirmation class a list of items the pantry needs.

And — in Greens Farms’ spirit of sharing — she adds it here:

The Food Pantry at the Gillespie Center is open! They distribute non-perishables to those in need in the community weekdays (except Wednesdays) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Their inventory of non-perishables, cleaning supplies and paper goods is running low. Contact-less drop-off of donations is available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Gillespie Center, behind Restoration Hardware. Click here for a list of needed items.

Anyone needing a prepackaged lunch or dinner can come to the Gillespie center. Meals will be brought outside.

Lunch is from 12 to 1 p.m.; dinner is 5 to 6 p.m., both 7 days a week. All food comes from local restaurants.

We do lunch at 12 noon to 1 pm daily and Dinner 5pm to 6 pm daily. (Both 7 days per week)  All food comes from the local restaurants.

(For a glimpse of the Zoom conference tour, click here. To donate to Homes with Hope, click here.)

The Gillespie Center is empty during COVID-19. Residents have been moved from downtown Westport to a hotel.

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