Williston church opens doors to evacuees

  • A sign points to Calvary Chapel Fellowship to let evacuees know the Williston church was open as a shelter.

Calvary Chapel Fellowship in downtown Williston opened its doors over the weekend to evacuees of Hurricane Irma.

While the church is not designated as an official American Red Cross shelter, Pastor Tehron Harless said he and his parishioners “felt a need” to open the church over the weekend.

“We noticed last year that there is nowhere in Williston for local people to go to,” said Harless. “We want to serve a need.”

The sanctuary is situated in the middle of a brick building on Church Street which once housed Rivers Pharmacy.

He said on Friday that he talked with the American Red Cross and will be following up on what is involved in becoming a shelter. There are schools in all three districts designated as American Red Cross shelters but none were opened over the weekend as the storm moved westward.

A makeshift wooden sign on Hwy. 78 in Williston stated simply “Shelter” and pointed across the street to the church “for anyone who needs to come.”

The church usually has about 75 to 100 parishioners on Sundays “but we can’t sleep that many,” said Harless. “Maybe upwards to 50 people could stay here.”

Church members took turns manning the sanctuary.

In actuality, 15 people along with a cat and dog took advantage of Calvary’s offer, some of them Florida relatives of parishioners.

On Saturday, a widescreen television provided entertainment for those manning and visiting the church. A group of children danced and exercised to a program led onscreen.

Earlier in the day Harless took some evacuees to his home for showers and a change of clothes.

Before the storm arrived, Harless said they had a generator and people gave donations of food, water and air mattresses.

The church continues to accept donations. “Whatever we don’t use will be sent for relief efforts elsewhere,” said Harless. “We will make sure they are put in the place where they are most needed.”

“We are just here to serve,” he said.