Lt. Jim Corder of the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office, with approval from Sheriff Morris Young, last week engaged in one of the most humane acts that has occurred in Gadsden County in many years. He was the catalyst behind getting 50 homeless people from Gadsden and Leon counties a warm place to sleep. These people, many of whom fell on hard times because they lost their jobs due to a sluggish economy, would not have had a warm place to lay their heads had the temporary (5 days only) shelter not been open.
What bothers me most are some of the negative and mean-spirited comments directed toward this effort. Let me set the record straight about some of the comments I have been unfortunate enough to hear.
Criticism No. 1: The sheriff should not have spent taxpayer dollars. The sheriff didn't spend one dime of tax dollars in this effort. From cots and blankets to food, everything was donated. I know because I was there every day helping serve lunch and dinner and keeping a record of who donated what. I have the list and I would be more than happy to share it with anyone who asks. The sheriff said he will send personal thank you letters to the churches, organizations, businesses and individuals who helped last week.
These are a few but not all of those who helped: First Presbyterian Church provided breakfast daily as well as cash and volunteers. New Bethel AME provided meals, volunteers and purchased new gloves, hats and unerwear. First Baptist provided meals, cash donations and clothing. Springfield AME donated children and adult clothing and blankets. St. John AME, Mt. Calvary and Mt. Hosea gave cash donations to be used as volunteers determined the best use of the funds.
Individuals such as Richard and Traci Lockwood purchased enough soft drinks to last 4 days. Robert and Loma Barkley purchased blankets and coats. Carlene Speed bought warm-up outfits. Eve James-Wilson, a local dentist, donated toothpaste and tooth brushes. Earline Taylor, who has shelter experience from her work with the Red Cross, came daily to help keep us from making mistakes.
Seniors Dorothy Granger and Lena Porter heard about the shelter and purchased thermal underwear. The recipients hugged the ladies and thanked them saying the "long Johns" would come in handy in the months to come. Unlike some people in this community who heard about the plight of these individuals and waited for a personal call, these ladies, who live on Social Security, chose to help their fellow man.
Beth Corder, wife of Jim Corder, and their daughter Alexis were there every day cooking, serving, sorting clothing and providing words of encouragement. So were teenagers Taylor and Tanner Godwin, who passed around countless plates of food, soft drinks and cookies. The list of volunteers and helpers is much longer.
Criticism No. 2: We shouldn't have gone to Tallahassee to get people from the shelter and bring them here.
Corder went to the shelter in Tallahassee and picked up those who might have had to sleep outside because the shelter was at capacity. More than half of the people brought back were from Gadsden County. Gadsden County native and resident Robert Smith, who works at the shelter, asked others from the county if they wanted to come and they declined, preferring to take their chances on a bed someplace in Tallahassee. Other people were picked up as they sought shelter beneath the I-10 overpass at Midway and a few were seen using the sides of buildings as a way to shield themselves from the wind. Yes, they were picked up and brought to the shelter, too. They were picked up because it was the right thing to do.
Criricism No. 3: Deputies were required to volunteer. No deputy was required to volunteer. The deputies, such as Kevin Godwin (whose wife and children volunteered every day) came back after their shift was over.
Volunteer Mary Jack Boone came each morning to help serve breakfast and survey the needs for the day. Then she started to fill the gaps with money from her own pocket and donations from family and friends. Tiffany Parsons, who directs the Teen Court program for the GCSO, volunteered to coordinate the delivery of goods and services from volunteers, ran errands, cooked, cleaned and did whatever else needed to be done.
And finally, to the person who said the sheriff only did this because he expects a medal...rubbish.
To their credit, none of the people mentioned above and others unnamed were looking for any medal. They are people just fortunate enough to be reared in a way that dictates care and compassion for others. To the critics, all I can say is what my mother often told us: "But for the grace of God you could be in that person's situation, so always be willing to help someone less fortunate."
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