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Yesterday's blog introduced Karen and Greg Garris, retired couple married 38 years, both of whom are suffering from major diseases (cancer and heart), who have taken on a major project to provide their community of WILMAR, North Carolina...with... their words:
...to pursue the project(s) of BLESSINGS CLUB OUTREACH to prepare food for the sick, elderly, and homeless...providing low cost housing to homeless families.
Karen and Gary have received a "convenience store" a 10-unit motel, and a plot of land for growing veggies. Rent for the facilities is 1/2 the NET income from DONATIONS received.
Begun in October 2012, the convenience store provides FREE lunches to ALL...THOSE IN NEED AND NOT. Donations are accepted. From daily donations, food is currently procured from local sources for the next day's meals, which include two types of soup and three sandwich selections daily.
No one is turned away. There is no set price and donations are "secret".
The motel is made available at $100.00 per week or $20.00 nightly. Currently four homeless families- nine folks all told - live in the one-room spaces....I was offered my room at no charge....only a "secret" donation of my choice. Each room has: ultra modern 12 x 12 floor space, queen bed, TV, Microwave, fridge, dressers, desk, night stands, new carpeting and fully remodeled...including central heating/cooling system, and full bath...linens furnished. Each tenant pays as each can afford...or helps maintain, clean, etc.
All residents receive FREE food...Donations accepted, but not requested or required.
In process is a new modern kitchen to expand food service(s), including cooking lessons as needed for homeless residents. Out back, a large garden is to be planted shortly to supplement veggies.
The entire operation is licensed by the State of North Carolina as a non-profit Corporation...shortly to be issued certification to become a food bank location.
All this is being done as a VOLUNTARY program by Karen and Craig. They make their own donations for all food and services they consume...and receive NO remuneration for their efforts.
These comments are intended to be a bare bones peek...the ultimate goal(s) are much more expansive.
It has been my pleasure to spend two nights with this small community...and as is my fate, I will be sad to leave in the morning. I have, in one spot, however, earned a new family which will fill the following days of SAM & ME trek.
Please say HELLO to the KITE family...l. to r.: CHRIS, KAIDEN, SHERRI, and ROGER. Missing is daughter McKENZIE (7 years).
Roger is currently uunemployed...looking for work. In the meantime, he assists Gary with maintenance and constructing new facilities in the store...presently building cabinets in preparation for installing stoves, sinks, freezers, etc.
Today, Gary disassembled, cleaned, lubricated and reinstalled SAM's front wheel...which nearly fell apart during yesterday's 25-mile drive through torrential rains.
Sherri, in addition to being MOM, helps by cleaning the motel rooms and assisting Karen in the store.
Please say HELLO to JIMMY VICK. The motel is Jimmy's home...I mean Jimmy's life-long home. His father built the motel back in 1952, naming it PARKWAY MOTEL, complete with all the latest modern innovations...TV, central heating/cooling, modern bath...etc. As Jimmy says...in the days when pride in what you did meant something.
Today, Jimmy is blind. Totally Blind from the ravages of Sugar Diabetes. Jimmy and I spoke for many hours today...sitting in the store after enjoying Karen's Soups and sandwiches. Jimmy is one of the most learned, knowledgeable, and intelligent persons I have ever met. His mind is sharp as a tack...and he instantly speaks with authority and conviction on every subject we touched.
Roger and Kaiden guiding Jimmy from the motel to the store, some 300 feet away. Greg told me today was the FIRST time Jimmy has left his room since they assumed responsibility for the properties back in October 2012...says Jimmy broke out because of my presence...to spend time talking to someone about things important to him.
Two other families live in the motel...of whom I have no photograph:
Keith Anderson, partially paralyzed from a stroke; and,
Tammy McAntosh and daughter Eva. for whom I have no information.
Lunch time at Karen's. Karen invites EVERYONE every day to join in her FREE offerings. Karen said to me this evening, as we chatted for a couple hours before saying goodbye (I leave early in the morning), that today was her largest customer day by far...then babbled something about encouragement and stimulation ...something to do with SAM & ME.
Do believe something good has happened here in WILMAR in the past 24 hours.