Bridgewater resident Rob Basler dedicates roughly four hours, sometimes more, every Saturday to a little known volunteer operation called the Church in the Woods.
Church in the Woods came to Massachusetts with Pastor Leigh Fuller, who managed similar programs in Plymouth, North Carolina, and even before that in Australia. Four years ago Leigh established Church in the Woods in Brockton, and the first stages of the program gained a foundation. It is there that Rob met Pastor Leigh
In Perkins Park, Rob describes a time when volunteers from different local churches cooperated to set up tables. Those in need took what essentials that were offered, food and clothing namely. It was Pastor Abraham Waya who was instrumental in bringing the operation indoors to the Central United Methodist Church which ultimately expanded the opportunity to offer more aid and fellowship to those who need it most.
Every Saturday the Church in the Woods volunteers open the doors at 1pm, and then serves hot soups, breads, and desserts from 2pm-4pm in the Central United Methodist Church lower level. Central United Methodist Church also provides the indoor space where volunteers distribute clothing, toiletries and everyday essentials. Those items arrive as donations from individual persons, churches, organizations, and food pantries. Volunteers are so dedicated to the work that they often buy necessities with money out of their own pocket. Volunteers also lead the worship and devotional services for the homeless.
On particularly cold nights, the Church opens as a warming station, housing an average of thirty people per night. “No one is turned away,” Rob assures. He and the other volunteers offer a warm place to stay, hot soup and food, and comforting words. “Recently we have experienced nighttime temperatures that have been so frigid, and it’s on those dangerously cold nights that our volunteers go out onto the streets of Brockton and spread the word, that nobody has to stay out in the cold as long as the Church’s doors remain open”.
“It’s uplifting work,” Rob says, “and it moves me.” Over the course of time that Rob has spent in the program, he’s connected with many people on the streets. He knows people by their first names, knows their families and friends. “Personal relationships develop because we’re sharing our stories.”
“That’s why we do it. All of our volunteers follow the tenants of the Bible. We believe what Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.’”
If you wish to volunteer or donate to this mission, you may contact Rob through his email address at firstname.lastname@example.org. Church in the Woods is often looking for staff to oversee to the care and comfort of those who spend nights at the warming station. During that time there are three shift rotations—6pm-10pm; 10pm-2am; 2am-7am.