That was how our month in Elkin, North Carolina was. It just felt right.
First was our encounter with finding a perfect spot to park Earl (refer to blog post titled Apple Jack Wine). Next was our attending church at the small parish of Galloway Memorial.
After worship, during Coffee Hour, doors flew open. Another soon-to-be lifetime friend, Jane, told Lauré of a place that could use our extra hands. The ARK. A transitional housing program for homeless single women and families. Jane urged us to contact the director on Monday.
The Vicar, the Reverend Gaye Brown, shared insights and information about the community at large, and where the needs are most apparent. She invited us to an Interfaith Dinner to meet more people involved in ministry. She, too, urged us to stay in the area to serve and connect.
We felt so welcomed.
Where can she use us? She takes a rare breath. She and another staff member look at each other and say, “The Basement”.
Once that is said, Cynthia is momentarily apprehensive. She backs up. She wavers about whether or not she should really have us see The Basement let alone do work down there. Obviously, there is something ominous about this.
After all of these years and certainly in the last year, both Lauré and I can look at each other and know what our facial expressions are communicating. At this moment, we give that “What the heck” look.
Me: Okay, Cynthia, show us The Basement.
Down the old wooden steps we trod.
All the way down, Cynthia is saying things like:
Maybe this is a bad idea.
and: Maybe you won’t want to do this.
and: You don’t have to do this if it’s too much..
As the door at the bottom opens, our eyes behold stuff. Lots of stuff. Piles of stuff.
The Basement is where community donations of clothing, household items and non-perishable food are kept. There have been attempts at keeping things organized, but with few staff to help, it’s gotten out of hand. Where does one begin to attack the boxes and bags and stacked up piles, let alone the cobwebs and dust?
We sigh and muster up a nod and an ‘Okay, we can do this’.
Then we proceed to the outside of the facility. Weeds mimicking the Tower of Babel fill the hillside. They mock us with their army of milkweed and thistle. Huge old mounds of mulch (dropped scallywompus three years before) barricade the dense sea of weeds from the driveway. Looks like a perfect wall of defense against those wishing their removal.
Here’s an area that needs labor as well.
We sigh and muster up a nod and an ‘Okay’.
So that’s what we did, but not by ourselves. Folks heard about what we were doing, and started showing up to volunteer. Mot, Will, Sean, Betty and Cynthia. We all broke stream-like beads of sweat as we sorted and moved/ shoveled clothing, furniture and earth (and lots of uphill runs with mulch-filled wheelbarrows as well. True cardio work outs!)
During breaks from the heat, dirt and insects, L would work cleaning up and installing anti-virus and anti-malware programs on the office computers. Cynthia and I would meet and discuss Operations and HR issues.
We all had fun helping at the annual Bingo Night Fundraiser. We whooped and hollered for the winners, dished out pulled pork sandwiches with homemade slaw, and met more wonderful supporters of The ARK.
It was a challenging, but productive month. Our hats off to Cynthia, the Board of Directors and the community for keeping this shelter alive and vibrant. It is a much needed program in the county, and provides a healthy and safe environment for people to get their feet back on the ground. We’re grateful that we could be a part of it, even for a short time.