Rome Little Theatre’s production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and its expanded effort to collect items needed by Rome’s three main sheltering organizations probably couldn’t have come at a better time.

With Hospitality House for Women, the Davies Shelters and The Salvation Army all being excluded from United Way’s Community Impact Grants for the next two years, Rome Little Theatre Inc.’s Executive Director Chris Davidson said her board wanted to focus even more attention on the needs of those nonprofits during the play’s run Dec. 6 to 15.

“Especially with the theme of ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever,’ we wanted to engage patrons in the Christmas spirit by encouraging them to bring something for the shelters and leave it at the theater when they come,” Davidson said Monday.

“The play is about a family that doesn’t have enough and they go to the church because they hear there are snacks,” she continued. “And while we can have a little bit of fun with that, the reality is there are a lot of families in our community where this is a reality.”

After asking Hospitality House, Davies Shelters and The Salvation Army for their top five priorities, Rome Little Theatre consolidated those lists into what seemed to be the greatest needs by all of them: New twin bedding, new towels and washcloths, new underwear for men and women, shower shoes/flip flops, and all sizes of diapers.

Davidson pointed out that community members can drop off those items any time during box office hours.

“We are so excited for this collaborative effort! Come see an amazing show and support sheltering programs here in Rome!” Davies Shelters posted on their Facebook page Nov. 27.

Hospitality House Executive Director Lynn Rousseau said she only recently found out about RLT’s efforts, but is “super grateful.”

Both Rousseau and The Salvation Army Director Capt. Jason Smith had publicly expressed disappointment in United Way of Rome-Floyd County’s decision not to include the sheltering organizations in its grant distributions for the 2020-22 funding cycle.

United Way Executive Director Alli Mitchell explained recently her board felt it important for the new Interagency Council on Poverty & Homelessness — formerly the Homelessness Task Force — to decide how best to fund those missions.

In the meantime, Rousseau and Outreach Coordinator Liberty Grant aren’t letting grass grow under their feet as they take advantage of the global event “Giving Tuesday,” posting on the organization’s Facebook page about Facebook’s promise to match a total of $7 million in donations on a first come, first served basis.

“This #GivingTuesday I’m raising money for Hospitality House for Women Inc and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps,” the post states.

Rousseau also is excited about a new fundraising event with mosaic art she created called “Putting Pieces Together.” It’s set for Dec. 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 108 Broad St.

“It’s been a tough week,” she posted Nov. 23 when announcing the new annual tradition, referring to the Nov. 21 Homelessness Task Force meeting where she confronted Mitchell about the loss of grant funding.

Moving on, Rousseau said she has enough faith in the community that Hospitality House will not suffer any great setbacks in services.

“I know the heart of Rome and I know they will step up and help us continue our work,” she said.

Smith said he also is pleased with the outpouring of support from Rome Little Theatre and reminds those wishing to help The Salvation Army with monetary donations, the Red Kettle Campaign now has a handy QR code for donations through Apple Pay or Google Pay.

“The dollars come right back here to help those in need in Rome,” he said, adding that in addition to the 27 regular beds, the Salvation Army also is operating a cold weather shelter in collaboration with the Emergency Management Office. “So far we’ve housed 18 people during cold weather nights that have been 32 degrees or below.”

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