WILKES-BARRE — It began with Paul T. and ended with Melissa F.
In between were Peaches, Scrappy, Lillian C. and Snowball stretching the list of the homeless men and women who died locally to 109 names.
Their names were read during a memorial service at the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-cathedral on South Franklin Street. The eighth annual program drew nearly 40 people to the church late in the afternoon as daylight faded quickly and the longest night of the year began.
The weather moved the candlelit reading of the names inside from the courtyard where it usually is held. The participants formed an oval and each one read a few names before blowing out their candle.
It was not by accident that the Scripture readings dealt with light and darkness.
“Light has sprung up for the righteous, and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted. Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name,” said Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel, reading from the 97th Psalm.
The Psalm is read at the Friday evening prayers for Sabbath, he said, and was fitting for the memorial.
“There had to be a lot of good hearts on this list,” Kaplan said.
Even though they did not have homes, “They’re always home with God,” he said.
The women Kristen Topolski works with daily at Ruth’s Place homeless shelter have dignity and deserve respect just as much as anyone else.
Topolski, director of the shelter, said the women “have brought something extraordinary to the world. They have this ‘I will’ attitude. “
It’s displayed regularly when someone new comes to the shelter and the other women step forward to make them feel welcome and assist them, Topolski said.
Sadly, the shelter this year lost a 33-year-old woman with “the most vibrant smile,” Topolski said. “This loss was difficult,” she said.
The list has grown each annually, said Stefanie Wolownik, program director for the Volunteers of America Manna House that provides transitional housing for young adults. She formerly worked with the REACH homeless drop-in center at St. Stephen’s with the late James Sobieski who was honored at the service.
“This year I added 11 names,” Wolownik said.
Most of the people on the list were homeless. Some of them had been able to find permanent housing, Wolownik said. “Many had lived successful lives and unfortunately many did not,” she said.
The service coincides with the winter solstice and services held nationwide.
“The reason why we do this is so that someone remembers,” Wolownik said.