Augusta women's shelter 'desperate' for volunteers

Garden City Rescue Mission sign
Garden City Rescue Mission says they desperately need volunteers. (December 28, 2010 / WRDW-TV)
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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, December 28, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- As temperatures begin to dip, more and more people without a home are turning to shelters to stay warm.

Around the CSRA, some are filling to capacity, but one shelter has to turn people away, and it’s not because they don’t have enough room. They need more volunteers.

It’s 4:30pm at Garden City Rescue Mission. Men line the waiting room, preparing to claim their beds and lay down their belongings. Check-in is under way, and the place is filling up fast.

“It’s just really hard and brutal out there,” says Bryan Mitchell, who lives at the mission. “You kind of gather up with a bunch of people and just find a place where the wind blocks you.”

Mitchell spent years homeless on the streets and came to the Garden City Rescue Mission for relief. He says winters are always the hardest.

“You sometimes you have to walk all night just to stay warm,” he remembers.

GCRM beds are full night after night, giving more than 60 men a place to lay their head.

But upstairs in the women and children’s shelter, it’s a different story.

Empty beds and lonely toys show a shelter without enough manpower to fully function.

“There’s room here for probably twice the people that we currently serve,” says director Loretta Lewallen. “It is very difficult to turn people away when it’s cold. We’ve tried to bring them in, make room and deal with it, but that’s very hard when you’re dealing with children because you have to be able to take care of them.”

The women and children’s shelter is a separate division of Garden City Rescue Mission and doesn’t share personnel with the men’s shelter. Lewallen says as director, they struggle to find enough people to help with all that needs to be done: preparing meals, helping with check-in or watching rooms overnight.

It’s so bad, she says, they have a waiting list and the shelter can only stay open four days a week. Every Friday morning, women and children are sent away until Monday.

“It’s extremely painful,” she says. Many of them go into very frightening circumstances.”

Loretta says the biggest difference from the men’s shelter is that most women bring small children with them. She says when toddlers get in the mix, things sometimes get “chaotic” and they need responsible adults to help everything run smoothly.

The shelter is looking for women volunteers at any time of the day or night. If you would like to help out, or just learn more about the shelter, please contact Loretta Lewallen at (706) 724-6960 or email her: