Berry College students volunteer at women and children’s shelter

By Alyssa Stevens, COM 250 Reporter

Edited by Hannah-Grace Mann, COM 303 Editor

ROME, Ga.- The volunteer work of Berry College’s Bonner Scholars has made a large impact on The Ruth and Naomi House’s initial success.

The Ruth and Naomi House is a homeless shelter for women and children of Rome. It opened Aug. 6 of this year after Devon Smyth, executive director of The Ruth and Naomi House and the Davies Shelter, saw the need for a women’s shelter. The Davie’s Shelter, Rome’s shelter for homeless men, was receiving several calls a day from mothers in need of housing.

Stevens_Fabian Cummings_Junior Bonner cooks in shelter
Junior Bonner Scholar, Fabian Cummings, cooks in shelter.

The community raised $160,000 to purchase the home in North Rome. The historic home was already sectioned into apartment style living, but Smyth said it required several renovations. This is where volunteers like Fabian Cummings stepped in. Cummings is a junior at Berry College and a three-year Bonner Scholar. He began volunteering at The Ruth and Naomi House over the summer through painting, flooring and helping with other renovations the shelter required before opening.

“I’ve been able to see it progress from bare bones to what it is today with residents,” Cummings said.

Cummings has used his own strengths and interests to benefit the shelter as well. As a student in Berry’s nursing program, Cummings focuses on informing the women on physical and mental health. On occasion, if a meal is not donated, he cooks dinner.

Smyth is grateful for the Bonner Scholars and other volunteers who worked to get the shelter opened.

“It’s the best thing ever, we couldn’t do it,” Smyth said. “If we didn’t have volunteers we wouldn’t have the capacity.”

Kendall Summers, a freshman in the Bonner Scholars Program, began her volunteer work at the shelter after it opened. Summers cleans out the fridge, answers calls and assists incoming guests. Volunteering at The Ruth and Naomi House has impacted Summers’ understanding of Rome’s homeless community.

“I have gained a lot of perspective on what the homeless community looks like and what they really need to succeed in making a new life for themselves,” Summers said.

The Bonner Scholars Program partners with about 30 non-profits, including End Slavery Georgia, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club and Action Ministries. Each summer, Bonner Scholar Program leaders like Laurie Chandler gather a list of each non-profit’s needs for the upcoming year. Laurie Chandler was a freshman in the first class of Berry Bonner Scholars and then became the first coordinator of the Bonner Scholars Program in 1997.

“We focus on doing with community and not doing unto community and walking alongside them and helping them achieve their mission and building capacity for their organizations,” Chandler said.

Chandler said The Ruth and Naomi House has been a great non-profit for Bonner Scholars to work with. The shelter gave the female Bonner Scholars in particular an outlet to work with other women. Chandler praised Smyth for the impact she has had on the Bonner Scholars.

“While she’s caring for our homeless population, she’s also caring for our college students,” Chandler said.

The women’s shelter has some short-term plans to improve the property. Smyth discussed plans for a playground behind the house for the children to use and a garden in the front lawn. Bonner Scholars will participate in the construction of these additions.

The Ruth and Naomi House has been successful in supporting homeless women and children in Rome, and will continue to do so with the help of volunteers like Berry’s Bonner Scholars.

If you would like to volunteer with The Ruth and Naomi House, please visit

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