By MIKE WILLIAMS
Taking It To The Streets Ministries got the go-ahead Tuesday night from Pulaski Town Council to move forward with operation of its Warming Station in the near future.
The ministry, headed by Pastor Charlie Barbettini, has been working to get the Warming Station up and running since late summer.
It will be housed inside the ministry’s new home, located in the former Sherwin Williams building at 235 N. Jefferson Avenue in Pulaski.
Barbettini told The Patriot recently the ministry had received over $100,000 to convert the former retail store location into a church and to make the needed renovations in the rear of the building to house the Warming Station.
Since late summer, the ministry’s leadership has met with town officials numerous times and appeared before both the town Planning Commission and Council in an effort to meet local building and fire safety requirements to house the Warming Station.
The final step of the journey came Tuesday when council unanimously approved a Special Exception Request for “mixed use” for the property in the B-3 Central Business District.
The Special Exception allows for a full-time tenant for the Warming Station during its normal six-month operating season – typically October to March. The tenant will check-in any homeless person who comes to the Warming Station on evenings when it is operating. Only homeless people with ID showing they are from Pulaski County are allowed to stay overnight, and they must not have a fever.
Tuesday’s meeting featured a public hearing on the Special Exception request and only one person spoke.
Vicky Goad of Pulaski endorsed the Warming Station program, and noted her church – First United Methodist in Pulaski – endorses Taking It To The Streets Ministries and the Warming Station project “financially and in any way we can.”
“This is something we are not able to do at our church and we want to help Mr. Barbettini do that,” Goad said.
Barbettini thanked members of the town staff for their help in completing work to get the Warming Station open.
“It’s been a long road,” he said, adding Take It To The Streets had spent some $14,000 in meeting building and safety requirements to be able to operate the Warming Station.
Council’s action Tuesday was the final regulatory hurdle in getting the Warming Station running this winter. Barbettini said there is still at least two weeks or more of work to complete before the facility can host homeless people on nights when the temperature outside at 6 p.m. dips to 40 degrees or below.
The Warming Station is only one ministry of Taking It To The Streets, which besides regular church services also hosts a bus ministry, food and clothing ministry, prison ministry, disaster relief, Back to School Backpack program, a Feed the Hungry Thanksgiving Meal and its Big Christmas Celebration. The ministry began its work in Pulaski in 2010 as a street ministry. The Warming Station opened in its previous location in 2014.
Just recently at Thanksgiving over 1,100 meals were provided to local residents.
Those who would like to help Taking It To The Streets complete work on the Warming Station or any other aspect of their ministry may make donations at: Taking It To The Streets Ministries, P.O. Box 30, Pulaski VA 24301 or by PayPal through the ministry’s website at streets4god.com.
“We’re just trying to do what God wants us to do,” Barbettini said.
“Our ministry is based on Matthew 25:40 – Jesus said, ‘What you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for me.’ We try to show God’s love and God’s compassion. And it’s more than someone just comes in off the street to get warm. We want to show them Jesus Christ.”