published Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

After the gifts: Weather doesn't keep Chattanooga area residents at home

Jerry Cobb, right, passes out meals during The Crossing church’s Hope Ministry’s Christmas lunch at Miller Park for the homeless in downtown Chattanooga. The ministry serves the homeless every Sunday in the park and wanted to ensure that people in need were not forgotten on Christmas Day.
Jerry Cobb, right, passes out meals during The Crossing church’s Hope Ministry’s Christmas lunch at Miller Park for the homeless in downtown Chattanooga. The ministry serves the homeless every Sunday in the park and wanted to ensure that people in need were not forgotten on Christmas Day.
Photo by Allison Love /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Christmas Day's gray and rainy weather couldn't keep 6-year-old Nathan Durrant from testing out his brand-new flag football kit with his uncle in Chattanooga's Renaissance Park.

Nathan strapped two orange plastic flags to his muddy New Orleans Saint's sweatshirt — uncle Andrew Howe wore a green pair — and managed to pull off the victory.

"Pretty much, it was a horrible game," he said afterward. "I beat him by a lot. It was 2 to 15."

"I thought it was 10 to 15," his uncle protested.

"Yeah, he was 10, and I was 15," Nathan agreed.

Nathan and his family were visiting Howe, who recently moved to Chattanooga. They spent the morning opening gifts and relaxing, Howe said.

The best part of the day was opening presents, Nathan said. But the best gift wasn't the flag football set.

"It was the light sabers," he said.

•••

Across town, 44-year-old Anthony Ferguson spent Christmas at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, just like any other day. He's been homeless for six months.

"It was really hectic here today," he said. He watched about 100 kids meet Santa and joined 700 other people for the afternoon meal of turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, tea and lemonade.

He received some money, socks, gloves, hygiene items and a Bible. The cash will really help, he said.

"The money will be helpful for riding the bus and going to look for work," he said. "Anything helps."

Overall it had been a good day, he said, although it was much different from last year's Christmas.

"I had a place to stay then," he said, tearing up for a moment.

He's been looking for work as a security guard but hasn't had any luck. If the shelter wasn't open Tuesday, he's not sure where he would have spent Christmas.

"Probably out on the street somewhere," he said. "I'm just grateful this is here."

•••

Ringgold, Ga., resident Betty Whitehouse braved the rainy weather with her son, husband and dog for a Christmas afternoon walk along Chattanooga's riverfront.

"We just wanted to get some air," she said.

Her family started the day with a big breakfast, coffee and gifts, she said, then they just sat around and talked. Her son was visiting from New York City and she needed his expertise.

"He helps us with all our electronic stuff and cellphones," she said with a laugh. "That's mandatory."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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