A day at my desk

By Ellen Russell | Jun 02, 2014

I call his name at the reception room door.  He struggles to lift his twisted frame from the chair and shuffles toward my room, a health advocate at his side.  Paul has obvious physical and mental challenges.

He lives in his inherited family home with two other family members – a sibling with multiple health issues and a teenager.  As his story of hardship unfolds, together we compare their meager income to their overwhelming expenses to determine their eligibility for our assistance.  Today, his cupboards are bare and he needs canned goods and milk to fill the gap till they again receive food stamps.

Then, I interview Marvin.  An accident victim, he cannot work but does odd jobs as his physical abilities allow.  His wife abandoned him with two teens, and he is at loose ends to keep them out of trouble.  His disability check does not cover the bills.

We discuss his income to expense columns and tackle the hard job of cutting costs.  I suggest elimination of cable TV as a luxury he can’t afford.  He agrees and then, his frustration level explodes into tears.  I offer encouragement and he musters a thankful smile.    Today, we give him just enough to keep the lights on in their small apartment.

I return to the waiting area and call for “Debbie.”   A tiny twig of a girl she is carrying a baby and pulling a toddler along side.  She has summoned the courage to leave a husband with substance abusive issues, and is trying to begin again on her own.

She fears for her own safety and that of her babies because of his violent behavior.  Working as a waitress with child-care help from a relative, today she comes asking for food, clothing and some small household items to re-establish a home.

These are not their real names, but their stories are so real they make my heart ache.  Victims of cruel fate in an unforgiving world filled with pitfalls most of us have never had to face, these folks quietly, anonymously blend into the fabric off our community.

Burdened with overwhelming circumstances, they emerge and make their way to our door seeking a glimmer of hope. For some their troubles are temporary, while for others the future will never improve this side of heaven.

And so I spend my Thursdays as a volunteer at Haywood Christian Ministry.  I choose to listen and let them know that God cares about them and that we care as well.  Our files are filled with their faces, names and haunting stories.  I find myself thinking of them in the comfort of my well-appointed home.  I whisper a prayer for their safety, their peace of mind and for more folks to join in our efforts to make a difference.

HCM is blessed with a great roster of caring volunteers who want to lift the burdens of these folks.  Some volunteers sort incoming food, clothing and household donations, while others dispense needed items, and still others man our thrift store to provide more assistance revenue.  Lots of jobs and lots of folks doing their part.

The beacon of hope we send out generates from 150 Branner Ave. in Waynesville, and during 2013, reached nearly 5,800 disenfranchised families throughout Haywood County.  Come take a look one day.  Come see what satisfaction there is in restoring some measure of dignity to our brothers and sisters experiencing hard times.

Oh, by the way, our most significant fundraiser is just around the corner.  We’d love for you to join us in this fun-filled time to benefit Haywood Christian Ministry on July 23 and 24 at Laurel Ridge Country Club and Waynesville Inn Golf and Resort.   This two-day event includes men and ladies golf, a banquet and a super auction (silent and live).  Because of generous sponsor underwriting, 100 percent of your donation goes directly to client assistance.

Call 456-4838 to let us know you’re coming.  Lots of folks look forward to meeting you.  Thanks for listening.