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Helping the Homeless in Our Community: WPC’s Code Purple Ministry

On Code Purple nights in Wilmington, Friendship House (FH) offers emergency sanctuary to the chronically homeless at the Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew (SSAM), located at 720 North Orange Street. The doors open at 3:30 p.m. and close at 8:30 p.m. (when the Salvation Army Code Purple night shelter opens for the night).

What is a Code Purple? Code Purple is defined and issued by the City of Wilmington whenever the nighttime wind chill is expected to fall below 15°F or when Wilmington is expecting a severe winter storm. Westminster rotates with six other churches/organizations on any given Code Purple night. When it is our turn to serve, we send an e-mail to our Code Purple team asking for volunteers for one of the two-hour shifts that begin at 4:30 p.m. One or two teams of two to four volunteers each are then recruited.

Some of you have asked, "What will I do as a volunteer?" If you serve on the first shift, you will retrieve defrosted soup from the church kitchen or bring bread, peanut butter, and jelly to SSAM and then prepare sandwiches and heat soup along with other Westminster volunteers and FH staff. If you serve on the second shift, you will help FH staff clean the site after the guests leave. During both shifts, you will offer hospitality to Code Purple clients.

As a member of this ministry, you can make soup, serve at SSAM on Code Purple nights, or do both. Anne Gunn, who has been making soup for Code Purple since it began more than seven years ago, says, "I love to serve through Code Purple because soup has always been a comfort food for me no matter who made it, but it was special if the soup was made by my father or grandmother. Making soup for Code Purple allows me to share my love of making soup with those who need comfort and the sense that someone cares about them, and it gives me a way to carry on this wonderful family soup-making tradition."

Remember the unexpected cold and rainy night before Thanksgiving this year? A Cold Purple was called that day. Bill Perkins, Executive Director of Friendship House, wrote the following on Thanksgiving Day morning: "A special thank you to all of the volunteers who helped make a terrible weather event a welcomed Thanksgiving fellowship to more than 150 homeless guests." Linda Cox, Bill Nace, and Camilla Jones served that day, and Westminster's soup makers supplied six gallons of chicken soup!

The Friendship House logo pictures a community of people sheltered by caring hands, for Friendship House remains a house without walls. This is a beautiful image – a true image of what we do as participants in the Code Purple Ministry. As Bill Perkins has said, "Service blesses us all: the happiest and best days of one's life are those lived for another."