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The nerve?” huffed Carolyn Cooley, hustling her two young daughters past the unkempt man who lay surrounded by beer cans, sprawled against a palm tree on church property. A battered hat shielded the man’s eyes, but holes in the soles of his shoes seemed to watch church goers’ reactions. Mrs. Cooley’s indignation dissolved into tears when, within the hour, she learned the man’s identity. The “bum” was actually her preacher, Neville E. Gritt. He’d stationed himself outside the church that Sunday morning to awaken his congregation to needs he’d seen while driving through Sarasota, Florida.

Heartsick, Ray and Carolyn Cooley prayed that day in 1985 that they could begin to show Christ’s love to such people. Feeling god’s call, they spent the evening pruning their tight budget and gauging their financial ability to rent a house that would serve homeless men. They followed through, and during the past 16 years almost 2000 men have found refuge at Good Samaritan House, honored this year with a Florida “points of Light” award.