It's funny how sometimes things never seem to work out the way I've planned but almost always end up better.
Like everyone in the area I had paid strict attention to the weather reports all week. I monitored each report on television, radio and the Internet. It was going to be bone-chilling cold and I was thinking all week that I was finally going to get the weekend I began longing for several months ago.
My plan was put into action Friday afternoon around dark. I went to the library and browsed through the shelves until I came across four books I wanted to read. I selected two westerns and two romances, thinking when I got tired or bored with one I could pick up another. Then I stopped by the grocery store to get everything I needed for a big pot of soup.
The first inkling that something was amiss was Friday night when Maj. Shawn Wood from the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office called to ask me how many homeless people I thought lived in the county. I guessed between 50 and 100 because people without permanent homes seem to be able to live with relatives for the few days of emergency weather we experience annually.
A close friend had a baby Friday and my sister and I planned to visit her Saturday afternoon. That wasn't going to infringe on the weekend I had planned. Saturday morning I got a call from a news source who told me that there had been a robbery at a local convenience store and I might want to come because there was a manhunt with dogs and a lot of law enforcement officers on the south side of town.
I couldn't miss that and as I arrived in the area my source was on point. I stayed with the story until there was no more story to get but by now it was mid-afternoon. Not a book had been cracked and not a minute had been spent on the couch in front of the television.
On the way to the hospital to visit my friend, Lt. Jim Corder from the GCSO called to say that the Tallahassee Homeless Shelter was at capacity and some of the people who had been turned away Friday night were from Gadsden County. He said he was taking the bus and going to pick up about 30 people and bring them back to Gadsden County.
The sheriff's administrative building would be turned into a temporary shelter for two, maybe three nights, and he wanted to know if could I help. I started making telephone calls to get food and water because I didn't know what else to do. I have volunteered for years when hurricanes approach but that's a different story. We're generally responsible for feeding able-bodied first responders and other volunteers.
Before I got back to town, Corder had returned with the bus and 30 people. Beth Corder, Pam Godwin and Whitney Parsons had finished cooking supper for Saturday night, a meal of chicken and rice, green beans and rolls. There was a concern that there wouldn't be enough food so I called friends who could help if we ran low on food. The people who came for shelter, mostly men, were hungry. Some of them had not eaten all day and they were grateful.
One of the churches promised to bring Sunday morning breakfast. I had enough food to make sandwiches for lunch. When I mentioned to a local contractor what I was doing he offered to buy all of the soft drinks. But Saturday night I went to sleep troubled about what we would feed them Sunday night and Monday because the temperature was still expected to be in the teens through Tuesday.
Knowing the kind-hearted people in Gadsden County, I should not have worried. When I arrived Sunday the breakfast had been delivered as promised, lunch and supper were taken care of, as well as Monday morning breakfast and lunch. People who heard about the GCSO effort at church began bringing in blankets, towels, clothing and toiletries for the homeless. Others purchased personal items, socks and underwear. It seemed as if the cold weather warmed the hearts of our citizens.
Some of the homeless told me they had never been fed so well nor had then been treated so kindly. They said they would not forget Gadsden County and the people. But all of us felt lumps in our throats when a couple walked in with their two children. The little boy was about 4 and the little girl about 2. Their little cheeks were dry and chapped from exposure to the wind but they were happy and playful. The young parents were grateful for the help and for the warmth of shelter where they were safe and with their children.
No, my weekend didn't go as planned. I didn't read one page nor take one nap. But it was one of the best weekends I've spent in a long time. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to be of service to others.
Send your comments to email@example.com.