Joyce Bonnoni said that she spent a long time wrestling with the fact that she did not deserve the blessings God bestowed upon her. She said she made poor choices while going through a difficult divorce and could not understand why God saved her from an aortic aneurysm a year and a half ago.
“I felt completely grateful but undeserving,” Ms. Bonnoni, a teacher at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School, said. “That surgery forced me to sit down and deal with the emotions I was running from and I was finally able to accept that God loves and forgives my past choices. In realizing His mercy and grace, so much was healed. And that is when I could stop looking behind me and see a path forming in front of me. I think we all need that kind of healing from all kinds of things in our past. We hope to help plant the seeds for that kind of healing in the guests that join us at Code Purple.”
Ms. Bonnoni is leading the new Code Purple shelter at Avenue United Methodist Church. Reverend Tom Pasmore said that the church is adding a shelter for men which will further the works of Pastor Ritchie at the Milford Multi-cultural church which runs a Code Purple shelter for women and children. Ms. Bonnoni says that the Avenue shelter can take in 16 men and they hope to help as many people as possible.
“The issue of homelessness is far more widespread and complex than many people are aware,” Ms. Bonnoni said. “The issue that leads to homelessness are equally as vast and complex. Regardless of the cause, we are talking about human beings who are in trauma, and we are hoping to stand in the gap and be a light in the darkness. We hope to connect with them with further assistance in their areas of need, if they are open to it. We all come to this with unique journeys, but there’s a commonality to the things that make this so personal to each of us.” Ms. Bonnoni says that her eyes have been opened to how easy it is to become homeless, whether it is due to illness, domestic violence, loss of a job, domestic violence addiction or a combination of those issues.
Ms. Bonnoni said that it was family, friends and her daughter that helped her through rough times, but she knows that not everyone has someone to lean on. She said that addiction burns bridges and having been one of those bridges, she has learned that it is important not to judge those who may be experiencing homelessness for any reason, but that it is important to show love, dignity and hope so they no longer feel invisible.
The Avenue shelter will be open throughout November, December and March from 7 PM until 7 AM whenever the temperature drops below 32 degrees. In January and February, the shelter will be open every night. Anyone who stays in the shelter will be provided a hot meal upon arrival as well as breakfast before they leave the next morning. Ms. Bonnoni is also hoping to provide “go bags” to those who stay in the shelter.
“We would like to have a soft breakfast bar or Poptart, fruit cup or applesauce type of item, pop-top soup can, plastic spoon, crackers or other such items and a note of encouragement,” Ms. Bonnoni said. “The go bags would be packaged in a Ziploc bag for them to take with them in the morning. This would be a great service project for organizations to work on. We have one 4H group and Esther Circle of the United Methodist Women providing some, but this will be a steady need.” Ms. Bonnoni said that they are accepting donations of any type of prepackaged food item, like pop-top cans of soup, canned chicken or tuna, paper products, coffee, snack items and more.
Ms. Bonnoni said that when the shelter is open in January, they are hoping to provide more healthier options, like fruits and vegetables, for the go bags. She said that healthier options will be easier to manage when the shelter is open every night. In addition, they are asking for donations of mercy items such as gloves, hats, socks, long johns, underwear and hand warmers. The men can also use travel sized toiletries, hand towels and laundry soap.
“We would love to bring in more volunteers,” Ms. Bonnoni said. “We don’t feel this is just an Avenue UMC ministry. We truly feel God means for this to be a community ministry and we would like to unite our efforts with those of others in the community to make a real impact. I would also love to come talk to churches or organizations that want to get involved.” Volunteers at the shelter provide meals and intake services overnight. Ms. Bonnoni hopes that people will be willing to stay overnight and that there will be a morning crew to take over for those who must go to work. Morning relief would be needed around 6 AM or earlier and would be needed until around 7:30 AM.
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the shelter, or who would like to have Ms. Bonnoni speak at their organization or church, can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also available at www.codepurplesussexcounty.com. Ms. Bonnoni said that the director of Code Purple for Sussex County is Nikki Gonzalaez and she can be reached through the website.
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