Today, Grace and Porchlight invited the community to a “Transformation Celebration” at the Men’s Drop-In Shelter.
Following are the remarks I made at the event:
On behalf of Grace Episcopal Church, Porchlight, Epic Software Systems, the contractors, and especially all of the volunteers who have helped with the Men’s Drop-In Shelter over the years, I would like to thank you for coming. It was some twenty-five years ago that Grace first opened its doors to a shelter. That decision was for a one-year trial in response to a growing need in the city of Madison and Dane County. No one involved in making that decision then could have imagined that we would be standing here today.
Over the years, thousands of men have sought shelter here, thousands of people have volunteered with meals and in other ways. Grace has provided space; Porchlight and its predecessors have been involved in the day-to-day operations of the shelter; and the County, City, and State governments have provided funds, both for ongoing operations and for major renovations.
There are many people to thank today; and many of us will thank them. Porchlight, the people and vestry of Grace Church, the contractors and other workers, but especially Epic Software Systems. There is someone else who deserves our gratitude, however. Last February, Joe Tarr wrote an article in Isthmus entitled “Bleak House: Grace Episcopal’s Homeless Shelter.” In it, he raised concerns about conditions in the shelter. It aroused anger at Grace, at Porchlight and among the many volunteers who support the efforts here. He got an earful from me. The press is much maligned, but at its best it can rouse the slumbering consciences of a community or a nation. Joe’s article did that. Thank you.
It was a few days after the appearance of that article that I received a phone call from Bern Tan, of Epic. He said they wanted to help. I immediately assumed that they wanted to volunteer in some way. But no, Bern replied that they wanted to design and fund renovations. I was stunned. The process has been long and involved many groups of people, but we at Grace are absolutely thrilled at the results. We know the guests of the shelter are as well. Words cannot express the depth of our gratitude to Bern Tan and Todd Sloan of Epic who have overseen this project from start to finish; to Epic who made this possible and to all of you who continue to support our efforts to provide shelter to those who need it.
We at Grace responded to a need twenty-five years ago. It was controversial then. It remains controversial. But our mission is the same now as it was then, to follow the command of Jesus Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves and to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. Thank you to all who participate in these efforts.