Franklin's annual winter shelter program is wrapping up its second season.
Room in the Inn, which provides shelter during the cold winter months from Thursday through Sunday evenings to those who are in need, had approximately 400 trained volunteers participate in the program during this year's program. Community training sessions began in October in preparation for the season.
There were over 35 guests this season making a total of 65 guests assisted since the program started.
In preparation for this season, the Housing Authority of Franklin applied for a full-time Build Corps member to work with the program.
Build Corps has a goal of offering housing to those who are facing economic disadvantages or homelessness, which coincides with the purpose of the shelter program.
Local volunteer Beth Fiss was chosen to fulfill the position as the official Room in the Inn coordinator for the area.
"We've had a wonderful season with a huge out-pouring of community help, which is what this program and community is about," Fiss said.
The program has hosted several fundraising events, including its first lunch and silent auction held on Valentine's Day.
Despite snowy weather conditions, the event brought nearly community members to the Franklin Methodist Church for the event, and The Brickyard Café catered food for the lunch.
Participating individuals and churches donated baskets of items for the auction and participants had the opportunity to write their bids on sheets of paper in front of each basket, or offer a monetary donation to Room in the Inn.
There were over 30 baskets and items donated for the auction by the community and Lake Spring Baptist Church donated 12 of those items.
All of the proceeds raised during the event went toward the winter shelter program. In addition, Franklin Rotary Club member Don Halcomb presented a check for $3,500 during the silent auction for the program on behalf of Rotary. The club raises funds during its annual Rotary Reverse Raffle and donates the money back to the community each year.
Fiss said she hopes the lunch and auction will be become an annual event in the community.
At the end of January heavy snows brought cold temperatures to Franklin and Room in the Inn took initiative to help those in need of shelter.
The volunteers prepared for a week of guest registrations and emptied their storage unit of winter supplies including, gloves, hats, hand warmers and bottled water.
Warming stations were opened so guests could have an easily accessible place to be warm and safe where they could arrive and leave as needed. The volunteers provided meals, snacks and drinks for guests.
The Oasis Southwest Grill in Franklin donated food for the shelter program for the duration of the major storm.
The Franklin Police Department officers also helped by bringing individuals in need of a place to stay to the shelter.
In December, Room in the Inn received a $500 donation from The City of Franklin presented by Franklin City manager Kenton Powell.
"We've done a great job educating the community on the need (for the program)," she said.
Fiss said they are also working with guests to obtain permanent housing opportunities after the season is over.
"While it's true that Room In The Inn is a cold weather shelter providing radical hospitality to those experiencing homelessness, we don't just stop there," Fiss said. "We work with people 12 months out of the year creating community and building trust while walking with them to take the necessary steps to a more secure future. This not only helps our guests but also helps the community as a whole."
Fiss said the program hopes to expand the days that the shelter can be open next year.
In order to achieve the goal of offering more days to guests throughout the week the program needs more volunteers and innkeepers to stay through the evening with the guests.
The program has been operating since 1986. It began with two, and now has 180 area congregations participating. For more information on the original Room in the Inn program, visit www.roomintheinn.org/open-your-doors.
Rural homelessness is nearly impossible to track because it often includes people who are living in cars, on friends' couches, in hotels or on the outskirts of town. The closest emergency shelter to the Franklin area is HOTEL Inc., which served approximately 400 homeless in the first seven months of 2014.
For further information contact by calling 270-223-8919, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the Room in the Inn Facebook page.