Code Purple fundraiser on tap at Tom’s Bullpen

Mary Ressler and Tom Armstrong, owners of Tom’s Bullpen in Dover, will be hosting a benefit for Kent County Code Purple on Feb. 24. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — There’s something about uniting behind a worthy cause that can serve as the catalyst for bringing people together.

Tom Armstrong and Mary Ressler, the owners of Tom’s Bullpen in Dover, are hoping a fundraiser for Code Purple will serve as a reunion of sorts for many of the people who have patronized the sports bar and restaurant over the past 25 years.

Tom’s Bullpen, located on the northwest side of the Hamlet Shopping Center, will be hosting its first Code Purple benefit on Friday, Feb. 24, from 6 p.m. until midnight.

“We just want to help out those who are less fortunate than us in any way that we can,” Ms. Ressler said. “The benefit will be free of charge, but we do want to encourage people to please bring hats, scarves, gloves, canned food, really anything that people who are living on the street need to get by at this time of the year.”

Trey Holland, Brian Lynn and Rob Karnbach will be serving up drinks as guest bartenders. The trio actually worked at the bar during its former incarnations as The Dugout and JW’s.

DJ Bug, aka Frank Torres, will be taking requests and playing music throughout the evening.

“We just want to do more for the community of Dover,” Mr. Armstrong said. “We want the money that we are able to raise to go to help the homeless population in the city of Dover. We want it to stay here and help out locally. That’s important to me.”

Ms. Ressler said Mr. Holland mentioned the idea of having the fundraiser for Code Purple because he has seen tent villages scattered around the city and sees homelessness as a growing problem.

She said she discovered that with the exception of about $3,000 in state funding, Code Purple operates solely on donations

“We’ve wanted to do something to get some of our old customers who used to come in a chance to come back and get together,” Ms. Ressler said. “Our guest bartenders have all been here since it was The Dugout and JW’s … and they’re definitely characters when they’re working together.”

Mr. Holland noted that Dover has a homeless population of around 100 people or so at any given time. He just wants to lend a hand to help them in any way that he can.

“I just want to help contribute something positive to the homeless people and the city of Dover,” he said. “Homelessness is obviously becoming more and more of a problem in Dover.

“Tom’s Bullpen is a good place and we just want to give back to the community for once. All of our bartending tips are going right back to Code Purple and I’ll guarantee everybody who comes to the benefit will have a great time.”

This winter is the fourth year for Code Purple in Kent County. Last year, the program hosted an average of around 80 people each night that a Code Purple was issued, said Rebecca Martin, director of Code Purple Kent County.

Code Purple sanctuaries are open to the homeless when the temperature or wind chill dips below 32 degrees. They are only open at night and their guests are provided a warm meal, a place to sleep and a hot breakfast the following morning.

Then they must leave and find a place to go until the sanctuary opens again. In Dover, there are overnight sanctuaries in place at several churches.

Ms. Martin certainly appreciates any help her organization can get.

She said one thing is for certain, Code Purple never stands still — not even in the heat of summer.

“Under the Code Purple umbrella we also have Code in Need,” Ms. Martin said. “We can’t house people overnight during the spring, summer and fall, but we make sure we have an appearance in the community to help them with clothing, tents and resources.

“The homeless community doesn’t go away just because it’s not winter.”

For more information on Code Purple, call 800-733-6816 or visit

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