By John D. Pierce

Bill Davies and I have been friends since my student days in Rome, Ga., when he was a youthful Christian education minister at the First Baptist Church there. So last Thursday evening we had plenty to talk and laugh about over Mexican food — which I try to limit in my diet to seven days a week.

Earlier Bill had given me a tour of the impressive new facility that bears his name. “Impressive” describes many aspects of the newly constructed William S. Davies Homeless Shelter — named in his honor for decades of compassion and care for persons struggling with life’s basic needs.

“We insisted that the building look and feel like a home,” said Bill. And it does, making it the most inviting and attractive structure in the neighborhood.

At full capacity, which will require more funding to provide additional overnight staff, “the Shelter” (as it is best known) will house 16 men and women in separate spaces. There is a nice dining area along with meeting rooms, offices and outdoor space.

Every inch of the facility is handicap accessible as well as providing privacy and comfort. Guests get more than a safe temporary home. Guidance and connections that help chart a hopeful and helpful course are also provided.

And all of this community-fueled ministry is done with generous gifts (no government funding), cheerful hearts and helping hands. The facility, costing more than a half-million dollars, was opened the end of January free of debt.

Bill comes from humble roots in his native Kentucky and has never outgrown his britches. Bluegrass Junction plays on his car radio, he speaks in homespun tales and shows genuine love for all of God’s children. His retirement days are spent volunteering at the food bank in addition to his work with the shelter and church involvement.

Self-depreciating humor is a sign of humility and Bill has plenty of both — although some of his jokes are the same ones he told me more than three decades ago.

The Davies Shelter is a wonderful example of how communities can meet real-life needs in loving and thoughtful ways by pulling together their best resources. But it all starts with the dynamic combination of caring hearts and helpful hands — being both dreamers and doers.

Although retired, Bill Davies continues to educate us on how to live out Christian discipleship. And there is a good lesson available in Georgia’s city of seven hills.

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