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Richmond’s First Baptist Church unveils shower renovations for the homeless

Updated: May. 16, 2021 at 4:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond’s First Baptist Church is unveiling its renovated shower facility for the homeless community after the demand grew during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The facility includes eight showers, including two that are handicap accessible. These areas include soap, shampoo, bathroom stalls, and a washer and dryer.

“Homeless people can come and get a hot shower, get clean underwear, clean socks, a warm, clean towel and get bathed,” said Donna Earley, director of stewardship and development at Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

Earley said the shower area was built in the 1940s.

Steven Blanchard, the church’s minister of Christian compassion, says their shower ministry started in 1999 with three showers.

Earley says their church is only one of two places where the homeless can get a hot shower and these upgrades are decades in the making.

“It was getting dark, not as clean, and not as updated,” she said.

Earley says the renovation was inspired by Buddy Hamilton, a shower attendant volunteer who worked with the homeless community until he was over 100 years old.

“He was kind of like grandfather to them all,” Blanchard said. “They would come in and he would say, ‘How are you doing Joe?’ and would have a long conversation.”

When Hamilton died in 2019, his family and friends started a fund for the shower renovation project. A little over $500,000 was raised to turn these improvement ideas into a reality.

Blanchard said this renovation helps the church keep up with their growing demand.

“At first, we were doing 25 or 30 [showers] a week,” Blanchard said. “Quickly, it grew to 75 to 100 and then it quickly grew to 150 to 200.”

When the pandemic started, the church moved their operations outside to a shower trailer. Blanchard said people were able to sign up for shower appointments.

Through this trailer, Blanchard says they were able to provide 40 showers a week.

With these renovations, Earley hopes the church can continue its mission to be good neighbors in the community.

“We want to be part of this Richmond community. We want to be good neighbors,” Earley said.

Earley says the new shower facility will open on June 5.

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