NORTH PORT — Karen McCormick is alone, homeless and often hungry. She sleeps outside, will awake cold, glad of Florida’s warming sunshine.

The brightest time is supper. The 55-year-old woman at about 4:30 p.m. will trudge from her outdoor quarters to the 100 Church in North Port. Church volunteers will have prepared a hot dinner for McCormick and others in the same situation.

A Thanksgiving meal is served at the church on Tamiami Trail at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, leftovers on Thursday, Thanksgiving day. Some 30 volunteers will contribute turkey, stuffing and side dishes.

Daily meals are supplied and prepared by up to 160 volunteers. Ron Reber and Cheryl Reber, a married couple and 100 Church founders, had served those paper-plated dinners each day for the last year. Debbie Miller also contributes.

A grandmother working from a rental truck until her broken van is repaired, Miller had prepared home-cooked meals in a nearby park. The homeless received a weekly menu to anticipate that daily spread.

She moved to the 100 Church to consolidate, to quiet the complaints of homeless in a public park, relieving and washing themselves in the nearby library.

Helping is part of their calling, the Rebers insisted at a meal this week where a handful of homeless men and women had come for a chicken casserole dinner prepared by Wendy Misner, a volunteer who buys the fixings and prepares the food.

Miller’s grandkids served the food, poured drinks, added to the merriment of a communal meal.

“Because it’s part of the ministry,” Ron Reber said of his and his wife’s calling.

Like anywhere, North Port’s homeless are a fluid population. Dinner at the 100 Church will bring a certain bunch one week, a different one the next.

A core returns, however, including Karen McCormick. She’s unassuming and quiet, on Monday in a T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops. It’s chilly outside, the night forecast in the 50s. Her blue eyes gleam at her table, however. No grouching about misfortunes, as she smiles in explaining her circumstances. And in a quieter voice talks about keeping her distance from homeless men, she added, inferring some fear in the dark woods where at times she may find herself.

“I’m trying to live right,” she said. “God knows it.”

Cheryl Reber takes you aside to whisper that Karen McCormick had used $60 or her $100 monthly state food allowance to purchase soda for the others. Reber, a postal carrier by day, points to green and red cartons stacked against the church wall.

“It’s amazing,” she said of the occasional miracle that will arise at the church.

Another is the former homeless woman that Ron Reber had hired at his remodeling business. Down on her luck and struggling to cover rent, that woman lived on the streets for months, he said, and would become one of his best hires.

“I’m not afraid to take chances,” he said, adding that local restaurants, Blue Tequila and Zio’s Twelve 21, donate weekly meals, as well.

100 Church and Debbie Miller run a holiday program to help the homeless. Volunteers can purchase gifts for that Dec. 11 even that includes a visit from Santa. Socks, blankets and clothing are always needed.

100 Church is at 14525 Tamiami Trail, North Port. Also try Debbie Miller’s Facebook page, Street Angels Feeding Homeless in North Port, to help. 100 Church is also on social media.


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