Aspen pastor shepherds in sleeping bags for the homeless

Stacks of Amazon boxes with donated sleeping bags for the homeless take up space downstairs at Aspen Community Church.
Courtesy photo

The Rev. Jerry Herships didn’t put out any prayers for the donation of 50 sleeping bags to help Aspen’s homeless population, but he did put out some pleas.

Judging by the stack of Amazon boxes downstairs at Aspen Community Church, it appears his pleas were answered.

“What’s special about this is that (contributors) came from all walks of life,” he said Saturday. “There’s a judge in Michigan, a pastor in Florida, a TV producer in Los Angeles. People from all over the country, in all walks of life, who can afford 49 bucks for a sleeping bag.

“It was a good showing of the kindness of people out there,” said Herships, who sits on the Aspen Homeless Shelter’s board of directors.

The shelter set up an outdoor homeless camp at the Brush Creek Park and Ride, also called the Intercept Lot, for the summer. Its plans for the winter have yet to be established.

The two days after Labor Day ushered in colder temperatures and tree-toppling snowfall, prompting Herships to issue a plea on social media. On Sept. 12, a Saturday, Herships posted a call on Facebook for sleeping bag donations.

The following Monday, the church had been flooded with 53 sleeping bag orders. More arrived later in the week.

Aspen’s homeless population is around 45 to 50 people. With temperatures going down, risk for hypothermia goes up.

“As a reverend, I try to not speak in hyperbole,” Herships said, “but there are real possibilities people can freeze to death.”

The donations — one person shipped 10 sleeping bags — speak to the humanitarian side of people that 2020 has overshadowed with a pandemic, fires, social unrest and divisive politics.

“Just think, in a world where we are having such a massive amount of anxiety and trepidation, there are still people doing good,” he said. “I know if it bleeds, it leads. But there is so much good in the world and so many people who are giving.”

Herships, who previously has worked with the larger homeless communities in cities like Denver, said he made it easy for donors with an Amazon link that connects them to the preferred sleeping bags. With a few clicks, the orders are placed and on their way.

The sleeping bags have been distributed, and Herships said he is seeking more for the coming months. The bags can only last so long, and some people might need several of the to get through the winter, he said.