Bags of Love Ministry gets results, offers help for homeless in St.Cloud

Donna Regn uses her own life experiences to encourage others

ST. CLOUD, Fla. – Donna Regn, ministry coordinator for Mercy Ministries in St. Cloud, is this week's Getting Results Award winner.

First United Methodist Church of St. Cloud has served the community for over a century but four days a week it also takes in the area's homeless. 

The Bags of Love program and Mercy Ministries provides a bag lunch, hot meals, clothing and showers.

Regn took over the program nearly four years ago and has been a steady presence ever since. 

"It's become my life," she says. "This is all I do and so I enjoy it. It's very fullfilling and uplifting." 

News 6 was there as about a dozen people gathered in the fellowship hall, talking, eating and browsing the internet. It was late morning but many were still there from the night before when the hall was open as a cold night shelter.

"We try to make them feel at home," Regn says, sitting at one of the many tables set up for visitors. "We're just like family here. They're like my kids I like to say."

Regn watches over the group to make sure there are no problems. She moves from table to table checking in with everyone. "There are so many stories," she says."Each day they'll come in and tell me a little bit more. Over time you put it all together."  

Jamie Rose and Alyssa Jinks are regulars. The two met at the shelter and have become close friends. "They've been trying to keep us away from each other for forever," Jinks laughs.

The two provide an example of the struggle many in the area face. Jinks lives in a trailer without reliable access to a hot shower. Rose works part time but doesn't make enough for both rent and food. She stays with friends and relies on the ministry to make ends meet.

"Most people are only one or two paychecks form being in the same situation," she says. "Without this I don't know what many people would do."

Regn is no stranger to the life many here are living. She was once homeless herself . "I've been to that point. I was an alcoholic. I slept on the beach," she continues. "I know how it is not have anybody and feeling alone. I can relate to that. Not trusting anyone. That's a big thing."

Church leaders say that experience gives her an edge. She's able to use it to help others. "She's lived through a lot that these people who come through the door have gone through," church adminstrator, Joyce Perkins says. "She has a way of reaching people that a lot of us don't."

Reverand James Wise agrees.

"She's just exceptional," Wise says. "She gets right in your life and she'll speak the truth. If you listen to her your life will improve."

As Regn cleans up after the last person has left, she reflects on the day.

"I'm happy that everything went well," she says. " I took care of a couple of people, if I can take care of one a day that's a great feeling." 

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