Friday, December 06, 2013

The Homeless Shelter and St. Nicholas Day

A Gift for the Homeless

Happy St. Nicholas Day to one and to all.

Thirteen years ago on this date, on behalf of the Twin Cities Center, I closed on the purchase to acquire a former upholstery shop in Saint Albans, WV. It is a long story, but suffice it to say two folks died under a bridge one snowy day in St. Albans, and I vowed to see to it that the homeless had another way to live other than among make shift shelters made of cardboard boxes under a bridge. Then came the police harassment. Then came the denial by the city fathers.

That's when I kicked into gear and went public with a major media campaign on behalf of the homeless, many of whom happened to be war veterans. It was a grueling campaign. Every neighborhood, of course, fought the idea of locating a shelter in their back yard. A friend of mine who was the executive director of the local chapter Habitat for Humanity, said that NIMBY had become BANANA. "Not in my back yard" was now "Build absolutely nothing anywhere never for anybody". We laughed...sort of.

Then I found what I thought was the perfect place; the aforesaid upholstery shop. It was directly on the main drag in Saint Albans, MacCorkle Ave, for those of you who know the area. The problem was that I needed some money for the down payment. That's quite a problem when you're trying to run a church on a shoestring.

Then, as if by some kind of divine clockwork, an elderly and feeble voice called me out of the blue. She asked me if I were the minister who was working on the homeless issue. I allowed as to how that indeed was the case. She then asked me if she could send me $25,000 to help buy the building I needed to put together suitable space for the homeless. I said that would be nice.

The woman sent me the check. It was written in a feeble hand aged with time. There was no address on the check. It was #102. My heart fainted, wondering if it were just a fond wish without the cash to back it up.

I went to the bank post haste, deposited the check, and by God it was good. I then entered into a purchase/sale agreement. We closed the deal on St. Nicholas Day in 2000. That's thirteen years ago today.

There was still much heartache to go, a court battle, some staffing issues, and lots of controversy. But my congregation, and my Bishop stood by me, and eventually the shelter was built, I handed the thing over to Roark-Sullivan Lifeway Center to own and operate what then became known as the Twin Cities Center.

Many of us believe in the "sanctification of time". It is an idea that says all our days our holy; days like Christmas, Easter and other days for other religious traditions.

So allow me to take today to say what I said to a wonderful, generous, and sweet older lady; "Happy St. Nicholas Day".

Fr. Paul 

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