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West Side pastor worries about shelter's future

With the bitter cold of winter on the horizon, a West Side church is quickly running out of funds to continue offering food and shelter to the needy.

"I am grasping at straws," said Jess Inclenrock, senior pastor of Harvest Time Church of God. "I am hoping the shelter will survive."

The church at 1704 Washington St. W. offers lunch and dinner to anyone who is hungry with no questions asked. More than 100 meals are served each day. For those with nowhere to go, overnight shelter is available with as many as 30 people sleeping there on any given night.

The church has been helping the needy with food and clothing since 2005 and the shelter has been in place since 2008, he said.

Inclenrock said God placed in his heart a mission to open a shelter in the wake of a tragedy that still lingers on his mind.

A man named Billy once stopped at the church on a regular basis to eat but he slept beneath a bridge.

On an icy cold night, Inclenrock suggested Billy spend the night inside the church. Billy said he had been drinking and declined to sleep in a house of worship in that condition. The pastor was unable to convince him otherwise.

Inclenrock went to check on Billy the following morning and saw police cars on the scene where Billy had frozen to death beneath the bridge.

Inclenrock was heartbroken. "We had become friends."

 In a quest to help others, the shelter opened at the church where the homeless and those down on their luck have found assistance over the last five years.

Food is collected through individual donations as well as from a food bank. But the real issue is the cost of skyrocketing utility bills for electricity and water.

The economy has a taken a toll on many people who were once able to give more. Some who once donated are now receiving services themselves.

Inclenrock, a former police officer, said some who come to the church to eat or sleep are just lazy and don't want to work. Others have lost jobs or family, or both, and are just down on their luck. Whatever the situation, a helping hand is there.

But it can't continue without the funding.

"My electric bill last month was $1,500," he said. "Water runs from $350 to $400. It all adds up."

He said many folks hesitate to give money and want to donate goods instead because they have had bad experiences in the past with other organizations. They want to know where the assistance is going. Donors may choose to pay a utility bill instead of giving funds.

"Everyone has been burned," he said. "I will hand you a bill."

Without help he can't see the shelter remaining open past December.

"We are doing the community a service," he said. "When people are back on the streets with nowhere to go, they will break into a place to stay warm."

Over the past five years, the church has given 14,000 sheltered nights, prepared 200,000 hot meals and given away more than 500,000 pounds of food.

Donations are tax deductible. Checks may be made payable to Harvest Time Church of God. In the memo section, put the words "shelter" or "food" or "Operation Whosoever."

The mailing address is Harvest Time Church of God, 1704 Washington St. W., Charleston, W.Va. 25387. For more information call the pastor at 304-343-9332.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.



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