Ferris Hill Baptist Church offers a place to rest on cold nights
From the outside looking in, Ferris Hill Baptist Church doesn’t seem too different from any ordinary church. There are signs directing you around the church telling you where to go and who is who.
But for some, Ferris Hill is a safe haven where they can finally have a good, warm night of sleep and a meal. To many, Ferris Hill is a second home.
To find Ferris Hill, you have to look hard. You have to take several back roads, and, at first glance, the area where they let people sleep doesn’t seem much like a shelter. It’s a normal common area; the only thing separating it from your average church is the assortment of cots and blankets laid out for those who use the shelter.
On a recent Tuesday night, it was a brisk 50 degrees, and the shelter was set to open at 6 p.m. Normally, the shelter opens closer to seven, but tonight, Soup For Salvation was set to help. Every Tuesday, no matter the weather, Soup For Salvation serves food to anyone who needs it, no questions asked.
“They can be homeless, they can be hungry, we don’t ask questions, we just give them a hot meal,” says Peggy Smith, creator of the Soup For Salvation Ministry. Smith says she felt called to serve and decided she wanted to make a difference in her community. Today, Soup For Salvation works with about eight churches to help serve food, including Ferris Hill.
“We didn’t have a place to go. And so, we reached out to a couple of different churches and organizations to find out who had a facility that we could use … Ferris Hill opened the doors and gave us their dining hall,” Smith said.
♨️ The cold weather shelter will open Fri., Mar. 11 through Sun., Mar. 13 for the homeless/heatless at Ferris Hill Baptist Church, 6848 Chaffin St. in Milton. Arrive between 6:30-8:30 p.m. each night. Shelter closes at 7 a.m. each morning. pic.twitter.com/jnLzJY95Cn— Santa Rosa County Emergency Management (@SRC_EM) March 10, 2022
Everyone who comes to Ferris Hill has a different story. Some come in, grab some food, say hello, and leave quickly. Some have formed a community with the volunteers and other regulars who attend the shelter. Some come in and tuck in early for the night. They don’t want to eat, but just to get a good night’s rest away from the harsh cold.
Many never planned on using Ferris Hill’s shelter, but circumstances forced them. One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said her mother died of Alzheimer’s, and she had spent almost every dollar to care for her. She stumbled upon Ferris Hill when times were desperate. At Ferris Hill, she found a group of people who wouldn’t judge her and wouldn’t look down on her because she needed help. She found a sense of community.
Thomas “Hollywood” Hall comes most weeks to get food. He lives in low-income housing, and he’s trying to do better. But, Hall sees a need in his community, and he wants to make a difference.
“It’s amazing what Mr. Tom Thurman and Pastor Zack Johnson do here for this Ferris Hill Baptist Church,” he said. Hall refuses to stay on the sideline when he knows there is something he can do.
“I take food that’s left over and distribute it back out to different areas, whatever they have left, I take it to people that can’t make it …. I take the funding out of my pocket to pay for gas for me to deliver the food at times.”
To some, Ferris Hill is a place of refuge. “Hollywood” Hall sees the shelter as a place he can make a difference in his community, especially to those who are desperate.
“It’s very mind-boggling and sad what goes on right here locally .… You got men on one side, women on one side, sometimes kids and their family come to this shelter. They don’t turn anybody away.”
Ferris Hill Baptist Church does everything it can to provide for a community that needs it. Everyone comes from different places looking for different things, but in the end, they all have one thing in common.
“They come to us I believe to find hope… that’s what we can offer,” says Peggy Smith. More than anything, Ferris Hill provides hope.
Donations to the cold shelter can be sent to the church located at 6848 Chaffin St. in Milton. To volunteer, call 623-3500 and press option 6.