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Cleaning bodies and souls. The Bridge Church launches new homeless initiative

It’s just one of those things that some people likely take for granted: a hot shower.

For some, it may even be considered a necessary chore that needs to be done before starting a hectic work day or after a hard day when all you want to do is relax when you get home.

Now imagine being on the streets with no place to call home and going weeks before getting the limited opportunity to get clean.

The Bridge Church, 4000 75th St. W., in association with Bring it on Ministry, will be providing the homeless access to that daily luxury they certainly don’t take for granted.

Mobile shower units are nothing new and are deployed in many major metropolitan areas, but the unit the church will reveal at this Sunday morning’s services will be a first for the homeless in Bradenton.

“It not only refreshes, it restores a sense of dignity and can provide the extra confidence when applying for a job,” said Pastor Mark Alt. “But for the homeless, a shower is not always easy to access. We are changing that.”

For those with faith, it’s an understanding of knowing God works in your life. But every now and then believers find themselves in a situation where they can smile, point to the heavens and say, “I know that was you God.”

Alt said this is one of those times.

“A friend of mine who doesn’t even go to church sent me a video of one these mobile showers and said this looks like something your church would do,” Alt said. “Two months later Melinda Harris, from Bring it on Ministry, and who volunteers a lot at our church was sitting on the front row.”

Melinda and Steven Harris’ ministry includes going into homeless camps, taking their dirty laundry, cleaning and folding it, and bringing it back to the homeless. Alt said he looked directly at Melinda that day and asked her what her dream was.

“She asked me what I meant and then she said mobile showers,” Alt said. “I asked her to send me a video of what she wanted and it was the same exact video my friend had sent me. It definitely felt like a God thing.”

The Bridge Church doesn’t do the typical collection plate. The church picks certain holidays to conduct their collection drives and Mother’s Day was around the corner. Alt addressed his congregation on Harris’ dream, “and they responded,” Alt said.

The unit cost $25,000 and features two separate unisex shower stalls and is capable of providing 125 hot showers before needing to be refilled. It’s a fully air-conditioned double shower unit, “to serve the homeless with a sense of dignity and love,” Alt said.

The church’s kids ministry has been busy putting together packages that include soap and shampoo for each person who use the showers.

“For us, it’s a real blessing,” Alt said. “It’s just exciting, there’s no other way to put it and it’s a permanent thing for our community. We don’t want to reinvent ministries that are already doing other things for the homeless and doing it well. We wanted to do something to add fuel to what they are already doing while achieving our mission by helping them to know God, find freedom, discover their purpose and make a difference.”

The showers are mobile for a reason and won’t just stay at the church. Bring it on Ministry will feature the schedule of when and where the showers will go next to serve the homeless on its Facebook page.

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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