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A true story of Christianity: Sharing the warmth in Altoona


Overflow Church -- Altoona Mirror Photo


For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.


Matthew 25: 31-40


Sometimes, the Christian principles are lost in divisive rhetoric.


Not for groups of various denominations in Altoona. They found Jesus’s admonition to help the needy one that was imperative in their city.


So, they set to work. In an article in the Altoona Mirror today, the efforts of people in the city to create a “Warming Center” was featured. If sounds just like something out of the Book of Matthew, something akin to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.


This was an effort by the Overflow Church to help those who in the winter had no place to live despite the cold temperatures.


Putting Christian words into action


Here is what a minister from an Altoona congregation did,


Kevin Dellape of Overflow Church recalled a conversation a year and a half ago with a homeless man on Sixth Avenue, after Dellape asked where the man spent his nights.

Behind the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, because if he slept next to a church, God might see him and help him, the man said, according to Dellape.


“I felt there was something wrong with churches being locked and dark on cold winter nights with homeless people sleeping outside,” Dellape explained, during a wrapup discussion with other local officials on completion of the warming center’s first season.


William Kibler, “Sharing the Warmth: Leaders reflect on winter

warming center,” Altoona Mirror, April 8, 2024


Across denominations


This operation included many people from outside religion as well as from various denominations. The idea came from a Catholic and was made operational by a non-traditional Christian church, Overflow,


The list of contributing organizations and the kinds of contributions they made occupy a full sheet of paper, double spaced, provided by Dellape, director of Backyard Ministries.

They include religious groups, city and county departments, a state agency, local human service agencies, nonprofit charities, businesses and medical organizations.


“It took a massive coalition,” Dellape said.


The vision that underlies the effort came from Sonny Consiglio, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council of Altoona-Johnstown, he said.


For the last couple years, as co-leader of a group called Hope for the Homeless, Consiglio pushed for something more sustainable than spending $10,000 a month to put up homeless people in motels, Dellape said.


Consiglio’s fellow co-leader Brian Durbin brought Consiglio’s vision forward, City Councilman Dave Ellis brought in the city fire department, Marten-Shanafelt and former Blair County Community Action Program Executive Director Christine Zernick got the human service agencies involved, while Pam Townsend of the Hope Drop In Center kept the group apprised of her clientele’s individual needs and tribulations, officials said.


The Altoona Mirror


A great effort!

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