By Maya Pottiger
For Laura Nelson, Winter Relief at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church is part of her “annual routine.” Nelson helped bring the program to Woods 19 years ago, and she has stuck with it ever since.
“I always feel like you’ve got to be giving something back,” Nelson said. “It’s really important to give back to your community, and this is my way of giving back to the community.”
Woods Church hosts Winter Relief twice a year: once in October and once in late January or early February. Nelson said the church usually hosts over Halloween and the Super Bowl.
Nelson is the overall meal coordinator. She organizes the quantities and sign-ups, and assigns meal captains to individual meals. Over the years, Nelson said the Winter Relief guests always compliment the volunteers on their food.
“We’ve changed the meals as time has gone on. We try to make them well-balanced,” Nelson said. “We tend to have real, honest-to-goodness, home-cooked meals.”
In 2001, Nelson worked with Scott Wiley to bring Winter Relief to Woods. After learning about it, Nelson and Wiley knew they had the space and resources at Woods to support the program.
Nelson said she didn’t want to see her fellow community members suffering in the cold without food.
“I felt it was something we could do, and it was a local thing we could support,” Nelson said. “This, to me, was very local and having an impact right in our community.”
During the week, Nelson said she enjoys getting to know the guests and hearing their stories.
“Some of folks in there have hit some bad luck, some hard times,” Nelson said. “It’s something where they see a future, they know they can get out of it, but right at this moment, they need help.”
The most rewarding part is at the end of the night when the guests say thanks and tell Nelson they always look forward to their week at Woods, she said.
“The fact that you know you’re providing a safe, warm place for them to stay and making sure they have three meals for the day, it’s something that I feel is important to do for the community,” Nelson said. “It’s about what can you do for your community to help people right here.”