“STEPPING UP TO SERVE: IS A MISSISIPPI-BASED INITIATIVE TO SHOWCASE PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE GOING THE EXTRA MILE TO GIVE BACK. THIS SEGMENT IS MADE POSSIBLE BY:
“Stepping Up To Serve” – Teresa Renkenberger and Mary Ann Kirby with SHOWER POWER
There are some people who can see someone in need and simply keep going; but there are people like Teresa Renkenberger and Mary Ann Kirby who have made it their life mission to help and advocate for those who need a little extra help.
Together, Teresa and Mary Ann are running a Jackson non-profit called Shower Power.
Shower Power is a mobile shower unit that provides free showers to individuals who are experiencing homelessness. There is access to clean water, soap, shampoo, mirrors, and a sink in a shower truck that is set up in downtown Jackson every Friday.
Teresa and Mary Ann have both had a heart for giving their whole lives.
“We’ve had a challenging childhood. And I think that embeds something special in your mind once you come through it, and survive it, and are on the other side of it,” said Mary Ann.
The idea started when Teresa befriended a local person who was homeless at the time. He explained to her that showers are few and far between in his community, and are sometimes valued more than food.
So, Teresa took matters into her own hands, and Shower Power began.
Mary Ann was brought onto the project in a way that the women believe only God could have managed.
One day, Mary Ann was scrolling Facebook at home and saw a post of Teresa’s. It was a photo rendering of a shower truck with bubbles on it and a shower.
“I was instantly intrigued,” said Mary Ann. “I clicked on it and within a few minutes found out that Teresa was involved. And as soon as I realized that she was part of it, her name popped up on my phone. She was calling me to say, ‘I’ve started this thing, and I want you to be involved.”
But a project of this magnitude can’t be run by just two people. Every Friday there are dozens of volunteers that come out and assist with various duties, and the lessons they learn are invaluable.
“It reduces the stigma,” said Mary Ann. “They (the homeless community) are not to be feared. They’re people. We have the same blood and at the end of the day we’re all humans. Just learning to accept that and treat people with dignity regardless of their status is just a tremendous lesson.”
Since opening in 2019, hundreds of people have been impacted by the good that comes from Shower Power. And there are several instances where people have turned their lives around after running in to Teresa and Mary Ann – including a few that came back to return the favor.
A man who goes by “Primetime” is one of those individuals.
“Primetime was one of our first people to come get a shower. He asked me for a hotel room because he was sleeping in his car and it was real cold. So I got him a hotel room and I asked him if he would meet me in the lobby. He was just the nicest most courteous people you would ever meet. Very sincere. I picked up that he just couldn’t find his way. He’s not lazy, he wasn’t on anything, he was just down on his luck. So we helped him out a little bit and he has been off the street for almost two years. Now he’s our only employee, and he runs the show. He’s the building manager, he cleans the showers, and he gets here at 5:00 in the mornings on Fridays. He has been my biggest blessing,” Teresa told us.
Shower Power is a journey. A journey that is inspiring, but also has its fair share of difficulties.
Currently, the non-profit is working to relocate ten people that are having to vacate their apartment, collecting items that can help make the winter months more bearable, and planning a Christmas Eve event for their friends who may not have anywhere to go for the holidays.
“Our goal is to make their living experience outside as good as we can and to help them in every way that we can,” said Teresa.
With the holidays and winter months coming up, you can help make a difference too.
Shower Power is set up every Friday at 836 South Commerce Street in downtown Jackson from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Volunteers are encouraged to just show up, and start putting in work.
Donations can also be dropped off at the same time and location. Items they are in need of for the upcoming months are sleeping bags, blankets, hats/beanies, gloves, thick socks, or anything else cold-weather related.
Food items that are donated are ideally pop-top cans of chicken, tuna, or sardines. Crackers, beef jerky, pretzels, peanut butter, rice cakes, and trailmix or granola bars with dried fruit are all necessary for nutrition.
Water bottles are ALWAYS valued and appreciated.
If you are unable to donate supplies, you can provide a monetary donation at https://showerpower.ms/donate-now
“A lot of times it’s very difficult because you just want to help everybody,” says Teresa. “We’ve only been open two years, and it feels like so much has been accomplished.”
But the two women aren’t done yet.
“We’d love to buy a facility where we can house people. A hotel or an apartment complex. We’ve love to make this a multi-dimensional ministry that includes housing and includes rehabilitation,” said Mary Ann. “Those are huge, huge dreams so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Please consider “Stepping Up” and becoming a volunteer or donating to Shower Power today.