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Sanctuary of Grace Church spreads kindness

ROME TOWNSHIP - What started out as a youth project has grown into a monthly gathering to spreading God's word, food, and sometimes shelter to the homeless.

Members of the Sanctuary of Grace Church in Rome gather once or twice a month on Friday evenings and head to Huntington W.Va., where they feed and minister to the homeless and others on streets and at Harris Riverfront Park.

"We want to reach out and show them that God loves them," Assistant Pastor Randy Thompson said. "They welcome us with open arms. They are genuinely caring people, some have just had problems."

Thompson said that the ministry started out with their young people and other people in the church. Thompson said that it was a good lesson for the youth, when many people their age are talking about going to bars and parties, for the youth to see what it can be like when the party's over.

The group not only feeds the homeless, they also pass out blankets, personal hygiene items such as soap and shaving cream and washcloths. At Christmas, they asked businesses for donations so they could make backpacks for the homeless.

They had a dinner and worship service for them earlier this year.

Thompson said that they are showing their faith by giving people what they need - not wishing they had what they need.

When asked why the church does this, Thompson said that Matthew 25:31-40 explains it.

"We don't just see the homeless people out here, we see a lot of teenagers," Peggy Rowe explained.

Rowe said that as they drive through the alleys they offer people coffee or something to eat.

"The purpose is to let these people know that God is there and he loves them," Rowe said.

Jonathan Watkins, of Marmet,

W.Va., came to the area to find work.

Two weeks earlier, Watkins and his wife were stranded, so they stayed on the riverbank.

Thompson's group met them and gave them shelter for the night.

"I'm here looking for work, there is a lot of opportunity here," Watkins said.

Thompson said that if they were able to help these people get jobs, many of these people would not be here on the riverbank.

"Not all homeless people are drunks," he said. "Some are just having a rough time."