By Dari Kotzker
After falling on hard times, Seth Robertson has been living at the Extended Hand Ministries shelter for a couple of weeks. Today, on Christmas, he’s especially thankful.
“I always grew up having Christmas and everything, and now I’m in a situation where I can’t have nowhere to go. And this is a good Christmas present for me, to be in loving arms and everything and someone who cares about my situation,” Robertson said.
Robertson is one of approximately 16 residents and guests who are either living here or who come for meals at the Mount Holly shelter. Pastor Selwyn H. Davis’ mother started this ministry in the late 1980s. He and his wife continue to run it seven days a week.
“We have people that come and stayed at the shelter that own businesses. One guy at one point owned three or four Domino’s and lost them all and he was staying here at the shelter. So the way the economy is going, there’s been such a great need out there. So many people are underemployed and they have no place to eat,” Davis said.
And even more people come here on the holidays, along with a number of volunteers.
“Holidays, especially Christmas and Easter and New Year’s, we provide meals for the residents. It’s open to the community. Anybody who really wants to come in, we don’t ask questions, we don’t ask where people come from. If they walk in our door and they need something, they need a meal, we’ll provide them with a meal,” said House Manager and resident Michael Gould.
“People don’t have family, they don’t have anywhere else to go. So where else are they going to go? So we open up and feed them, we feed them like we feed ourselves. So we eat good, so they eat good,” said Elder Cynthia Davis of Extended Hands Ministries.
In addition to being Christmas today, Burlington County also issued a code blue. So that means when the temperatures dip below freezing, the county guarantees free shelter for the homeless. And many people are brought here.
“We’re allowed to home nine men and three women when it’s not code blue, but then when it’s code blue the county lets us take the overflow and sometimes we have people sleeping downstairs inside the sanctuary or sleeping here in the dining area,” said Davis.
“I became homeless a few years ago when my mom and dad passed. When it’s code blue I come here. I really appreciate it and really respect it,” said resident Sherrie Aikins.
The Extended Hands Ministries relies almost entirely on donations. And so far, the economy hasn’t affected the amount of goods and money they receive.
“When we have a need, our need is fulfilled. It seems this house is a house of miracles,” said Gould.
This shelter is available for as long as people need to stay, but it’s also an opportunity for them to learn about employment and housing services.