The community is invited to join with local religious organizations and outreach agencies serving men and women who are homeless, to remember those who have died homeless during the past year. The vigil will be held Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Stamford, One Walton Place (at Bedford and Prospect Streets). It will begin outside the church at the Bedford Street entrance and proceed indoors.

The interfaith service, which includes readings, prayers and uplifting music, is both a time of remembrance and a celebration of hope. Wayne Staggs, music director at Faith Missionary Tabernacle Baptist Church in Stamford, will lead a choir which includes shelter residents and the recently homeless. Members of local groups serving the homeless will read poetry, and artwork from clients will be displayed in the church following the hour-long service.

This homeless memorial service in Stamford coincides with the national initiative, held annually since 1990 on Dec. 21, the longest night of the year, and, in New England, often one of the coldest. The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and the Continuum of Care of Stamford and Greenwich are advocates with a mission to end homelessness. Stamford has marked the occasion for the past five years, and the local event has grown to include a diverse set of religious and nonprofit partners.

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The event is sponsored by the InterFaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut, Stamford's Shelter for the Homeless, Laurel House, Liberation Programs, Optimus Healthcare, and St. Luke's Lifeworks.

"The mission of National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day is to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember our homeless friends who have paid the ultimate price for our nation's failure to end homelessness," Kate Heichler, president of the InterFaith Council of Southwestern Conn., said.

The Interfaith Council has a long history of tolerance and support for the diverse religious expressions found within the communities of southwestern Fairfield County. Through a wide array of special events, monthly interfaith discussions and many community initiatives, the InterFaith Council is a place for interfaith action and conversation in those communities. For more information, call 203-348-2800 or visit www.interfaithcouncil.org.