ENGLEWOOD — St. David’s Episcopal Church is expanding services for the needy, disadvantaged and homeless in space that formerly housed its day school.
Almost nine months after the day school closed due to decreasing enrollment, the church annex that housed it is being repurposed to serve the low income and homeless in a space named the Jubilee Outreach Center.
‘It’s a 55-year old parish and outreach is always at the heart of what this parish was,’ said Rev. Eric S. Cooter. ‘During the tenure of the last priest, there was a great focus to do ministry in our community primarily around outreach. When I came in, I started to work with our outreach coordinator and we looked at how we can actually try to bring some of these things back in house so we could use our resources to do more of that.’
In 2011, St. David’s developed two major programs — a backpack program for Englewood Elementary School and cold-night shelter. The new Jubilee Center will allow those programs to grow.
‘There are so many needs out here in the community,’ said Pat Knox, outreach minister for St. David’s.
The church’s backpack ministry will be starting up on the first Wednesday in October when the Jubilee Center opens, serving Englewood Elementary School, Englewood’s only public school in Sarasota County.
The backpack ministry provides food to take home on the weekend for low income children, supplementing students who are already receiving subsidized lunches.
The Jubilee Center will also be used for an expanded cold-night shelter when temperatures drop to 40 degrees.
‘We are the only shelter between Sarasota and Port Charlotte,’ Knox said. ‘I believe that another shelter is opening up in Venice, but it’s a Red Cross shelter …they’ll only open up when it gets down to 30 degrees. At 30 degrees, that’s way too cold. If they’re sleeping in a tent or on the ground, 40 degrees is cold.’
Knox hopes to expand to a possible inclement weather shelter for the homeless with more donations and volunteers.
‘When you have rain for four days, these people are staying in tents,’ Knox said. ‘They’re floating away.’
A hygiene ministry is being developed to complement the cold night shelter where visitors can take a shower and do laundry.
The Jubilee Center will also act as storage for the St. David’s food pantry and other developing services.
‘Here is the bottom line,’ Cooter said. ‘If we’re doing God’s work, we’ve got to believe that God’s involved in it and that God is going to provide, but we also have a responsibility to participate in all that and to be good stewards.’
St. David’s is located on 401 South Broadway in Englewood. For more information, call 941-473-7807.