Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keeping the Homeless in Memory

Posted: December 22
Times Leader
Keeping the homeless in memory

WILKES-BARRE – Losing his birth certificate in a house fire early in life and a paperwork mix-up when he was getting ready to retire led to Bob “Pinky” Shovlin becoming homeless at age 62.

Recalling the four years of his life that he had no home, while eating a cup full of chili in the hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Tuesday night, was easier for Shovlin than thinking about the other local homeless people who have died recently, people who were his friends and family.

Just last week, his friend Peter passed away. His friend, Christian, died recently of sclerosis of the liver. And about a year ago, his son, Wayne, was killed when he was run over by a train in Huntington, W. Va.

Shovlin, 69 and a Wilkes-Barre native, was among a few dozen people who either are or were homeless or who work to help the homeless who gathered for a memorial service in the church and, afterward, a candlelight vigil outside.

Bill Jones, of Volunteers of America, welcomed everyone to the fifth Luzerne County Homeless Memorial Service, noting it was intentionally held on the first day of winter, the longest night of the year.

“As children of God, we all have a divine nature. And because of this, we all deserve respect, love and compassion,” Jones said.

“Today, we remember the growing number of homeless individuals from our community who have died. Sadly, 13 more individuals have been added to the roll call of (56) names we celebrated last year. So we begin our service today knowing that all of us, those who have homes and those who don’t and those who have died because of the darkness of homelessness, are indeed children of God,” he said.

Psalms, scripture passages and prayers were recited and led by Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel, Kristen Topolski of Ruth’s Place, Sister Mary Fellin of Catholic Social Services, Tony Brooks of St. Stephen’s Vestry and the Rev. Brian Pavlac of King’s College and St. Stephen’s.

Stefanie Wolownik of REACH and Mary Zack led a procession outside to a candlelight vigil. As they left the church, each participant picked up pieces of paper with names of the area homeless who died and formed a circle outside. As each person read one or more names, they blew out their candle.

When all the candles were extinguished, they filed into the church hall to share food and fellowship, thankful for warmth and the company of others on a cold winter’s night.

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