Our Chef Billy Needs Housing

*Billy’s story is told with his consent and encouragement. 

When Blu graduated and moved from being head of our Nutrition Program to our Peer Support Specialist, there was a void to fill, but luckily, Billy had just started volunteering with us! That was over 8 months ago now, and he’s been here, every day, cooking the most delicious food that anyone has tasted.  He’s famous for his sauces, gravies, meatloaf, potato salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, ribs, tuna cakes, bean soup, saffron rice- actually, he’s famous for everything he cooks.

Billy’s Birthday Lunch

Billy turned 50 this week and held a huge lunch party where he made all of his favorite foods- ribs, roast with potatoes and carrots, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, Billy Beans and stewed cabbage with ham bones.  It was DELICIOUS!

Something that people don’t know about Billy, is that he’s an unhoused person, and has been since 1997.  He gets disability because of a terrible work accident that left him partially blind, but it’s not enough to get him any housing.  He’s been up for section 8 housing twice, and both times could not find an apartment that passed inspection.  Around 8,000 people receive section 8 vouchers, but there are only about 2,000 available units in Raleigh.  It’s a tough time to be a disabled person who sleeps in the park.

Billy and I at the Food Bank.

Billy gets about $800/month in disability benefits.  The difference between Billy being housed and not is a part-time job that he can do that doesn’t take away his benefits, as he as also been hit by a bus once and a car recently.  He works here at Love Wins like it is his full-time job.  He is treated as staff, however, we haven’t been able to pay him.  We want to change that.  We want to provide a salary for Billy and find an apartment or living situation that costs no more than $500/mo. that is on a bus line so that he can get around.  These shouldn’t be lofty goals, but they seem to be these days.

In Billy’s ideal world, his housing would be safe and quiet.  He keeps to himself and likes to keep his things tidy and in good condition.  Billy has mastered the art of keeping things safe and in good condition outdoors- he could teach a class on it.  It would be manageable with his current disability income plus an additional income if he could have that.  As Hugh said to me yesterday on the phone “If someone can keep themselves so together living outside, if they had an apartment, they could rule the world!”

Birthday morning!

Billy has never asked for anything, but he really wants a job.  Here is what I propose: can we raise a salary for Billy?  Even just $100/week would make it so that Billy would have a chance to be able to be housed at current market value somewhere.  If we could raise $400/mo. to be able to provide that for him, it could only go up from there.  He can’t make more than $800/mo. without losing his disability, and right now, that’s a really important factor.

I’ve started the paperwork, and we may have to ask the Universe for forgiveness instead of permission.  If you would like be a monthly contributor towards our Nutrition Program and a salary for Billy, please click here, and don’t hesitate to leave us a note!!!  We want to know that you support Billy, our nutrition program, and creating a salary and housing that directly affects one person that you really do know.  We can end homelessness for one person this month.  I believe it.

*Billy is one of my closest friends.  If you know of an apartment, house, or living situation that is safe, clean and quiet, please don’t hesitate to contact me at maranda@lovewinscec.org . I want the best for our Billy, and I want him to not be sleeping in that park anymore.  

Exciting Volunteer Opportunities!

Often when people come to volunteer at the center, they don’t know where to start or how they fit in. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities available, including some brand new ones, so let us give you the rundown on some really great programs that we’re working hard on here at the Community Center.

 

The Really Free Closet

Volunteer, Billy, organizing men’s pants on our new hanging racks.

Do you have a flair for fashion? Do you have previous retail experience, or are you a meticulous organizer? If this sounds like you, we need your help! We need a volunteer every day who can keep our donation closet in excellent working order and help people find the right sizes in what they’re looking for. Duties include straightening and sorting donations, organizing clothing into sizes and being able to help people find what they need. We already have a volunteer or two who love to do this, but we have 5 days to fill at 4 hours each, so let alyssa@lovewinscec.org know that you’re interested, and we’ll get you started!

 

Front Desk

Volunteer, Thomas, works the front desk and gives new folks tours of the center.

We have a beautiful, front desk office that is completely under-utilized, it’s intention was to be a welcoming station for guests. Ideally, the volunteer who hangs out in this posh office will greet guests, make sure they sign in, answer the phone, and not be afraid to say “I don’t know the answer to that, let me ask and get right back to you”, then find a staff member. This person will have a set of keys to our hygiene and first aid closets, and be able to get folks needed things out of there like soap, shampoo, toothpaste and band-aids. They’ll be able to let folks know that breakfast is at 9:30 and lunch is at 11:30, as well as being able to point people in the right direction so that they can get their needs met. If anyone would like to take it a step further, bring your laptop and look up directions, phone numbers, etc. to help our folks navigate the world. If you enjoy reception/admin./host opportunities, we need you! Email Alyssa Chamblee at alyssa@lovewinscec.org.

 

Nutrition Program Assistant

Operations Associate, Blu, making pasta for lunch in the church kitchen.

Do you love working in the kitchen? Do you have good knife skills, take direction well and maybe even have a couple of great recipes that you can instantly recall just by looking at what’s available (I know I do), then we need you in the kitchen! We serve breakfast and lunch every day, and sometimes that is more successful with more hands on deck. The person who would enjoy doing this would be someone with a passion for food who lacks the need to be in charge of the kitchen (we have a person for that on staff), though your moment may come if anyone falls ill around here. They will be a person who knows when the pot needs stirring, the griddle needs cleaning, and that you don’t cut chicken on the vegetable board. This person can be of many personality types, from the type of person who loves to follow a recipe to a person who plays “Iron Chef” with things grown in the community garden. If you love to feed people, we have a position (or 2) per day for you! If you’re interested in this position, email Blu Honeycutt at blu@lovewinscec.org and cc alyssa@lovewinscec.org.

 

Events Coordinator/Fundraiser

Flyer from the Love Wins Coat Drive at Bittersweet, organized by fundraising volunteer, Esther.

Are you the type of person who doesn’t have time to come volunteer during the day, but you can organize and throw a great party? Do you know a lot of restaurant owners/DJ’s/local business owners/grant givers? Then we really need you! We have to keep the momentum going and let folks know that we are here and exactly what we do. The person who would like to volunteer in this capacity will have an idea for a fundraiser. They’ll have social connections and a good online social media presence. They’ll know exactly what I’m talking about in this description. You’re a mover and a shaker; you get things done. You create food drives, art shows, benefits, galas, balls, big parties, comedy shows, book bands, maybe you’re just really good at organizing your church into action. Whatever your special skill is, we need you. If you are picking up what I’m laying down, email MaRanda at maranda@lovewinscec.org.

 

Special Skills

Shelving, put together by our volunteer, Chico, for our food pantry.

Do you have a special skill that you would like to use for good? Are you good with computers? Are you a good artist? Are you a resume’ guru? We have 1 art therapist and 1 yoga instructor right now, but we could use more enrichment programs. Bring us your talent and share it with people who may not have the opportunity to participate in what you do typically. Not big on people interaction? We have opportunities for handy folks who are good with any type of trade skill pretty regularly. Prefer one on one interaction? We could use therapists, people with trucks that can help us move big things, carpenters to mend our deck, and people who can help us with getting folks to their appointments on time. If you like your day to be different every day and you have a special skill, we need you!!! Please email Alyssa at alyssa@lovewinscec.org. You are a crafty problem solver, and we could use your help!

Camping enthusiast? Awesome! Do you personally know where to go and how to navigate social programs? We need you so bad!!! Have you been a CNA, a nurse, an EMT professional? We always have questions! Do you want to teach a class in sewing, plumbing, finance, jewelry making, cooking, drawing, music, computer literacy, reading/writing, anything- we would love for you to teach us how to do that, too. Do you love to work in the garden? We have a community garden! There are so many opportunities to contribute; bring us your gifts and give the gift of a second chance for someone who could really use your help. We will hold a space for you, and together, we’ll hold a space for people to be their best selves!

To quote Pastor Hugh, “Nobody  has their best day alone”. Come make someone’s day!

Community

Community- a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interest, and goals.

When I come to work every day, I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are just as happy to see me as I am to see them. We can have anywhere between 50-80 people come through the door every day, and they are coming “home” when they come through that door. It’s a place they can relax, rest, eat, socialize, cut their hair, wash up, and enjoy being safe.

Our community is full or all walks of life. Each one is different, but we all have something in common, we need each other. I can sit and watch these people be themselves, and have other people around them that understand what they are going through. Hearing them laugh after a long cold wet weekend outside brings warmth to my heart. I can hear the joy they are sharing with each other, as well as the staff members.

I was told once “we are holding up walls to give them a space to be… to be themselves.” For me, that meant we were there to help allow someone to let down their guard for a moment, and just BE. In allowing them that space, they become a blooming flower; opening up and sharing with us their wins and failures, letting us into their lives like family. When it’s cold and wet outside, my heart is with them. I think about my community like my family.

I have had my share of ups and downs while working here, and the community has been there through it all. They have embraced me and picked me up when I fell, and rejoiced and loved me in my accomplishments. In return I have given many hugs to the ones that needed an extra lift that day, and did dances with others that have great things happening in their lives. When you begin to see the same faces on a daily basis, you begin to know personalities. You know who is gonna say what, and which one you can get a laugh from. I need each personality in my life, personally, to make my day complete.

Working in the kitchen, I’ve gotten to know our community in a different way; through their stomachs. We have our diabetics, our carrot allergies, our lactose intolerant, the ones that will eat anything as well as the ones who are picky. I find that knowing all these individuals and what they like or don’t like, brings me that much closer to them, and remembering all these things shows that I care for each of them, just like if they were my own family. They aren’t given many choices outside of Love Wins, so we give them as many choices as possible. I make lots of meals, and each is thought out carefully to make sure everyone is able to eat. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but it can always be done.