Universalist Unitarians—a Decade of Friendship
Ten years ago Sandy Vermillion, Carol Rousey, Roger Coates, and their fellow church members attended a work day at the Urban Ministry Center’s College Street Campus. While serving, they met new staff member Joann Markley who told them about a brand new program, Homeless To Homes, that could really use their support. On that day in 2008 a new partnership between the Scattered Site program and the Universalist Unitarian Church of Charlotte (UUCC) was formed that has nourished relationships in all sorts of ways.
As an experienced case manager, Joann was excited about the new program and strategy that ended homelessness for Charlotte’s chronically homeless individuals, but she was already anticipating the next challenge – how to build community and combat loneliness for people who had been largely invisible to their fellow Charlotteans.
For the UUCC volunteers the answer came easily: offer food. Grill it, cook it, mix it, they will come! The first event was a bingo and potluck for the 13 tenants in the H2H program, living in different apartments around Charlotte. Since that first event there have been many more. Thanksgiving quickly became a tradition, with tenants visiting the church each year for a home cooked meal and entertainment. The UUCC volunteers threw picnics, dinner parties with entertainment, ice cream socials, bowling, fishing and pumpkin picking to round out the many opportunities for tenants to connect with each other and the new friends they were making from the volunteers. Several UUCC volunteers have developed personal relationships with the tenants, going beyond these events. Just what Joann had in mind for her formerly homeless tenants.
Today, Scattered Site includes 3 programs and totals more than 200 tenants. Instead of 13 attending, it’s more like 40-60. And yet, UUCC has still stepped up to the challenge! Last week they hosted a cook-out and while Hurricane Florence forced a relocation, it was still fun for all. Tenants like Louise and Roger can catch up and enjoy a meal together.
Each time, volunteers Sage & Dale Brooks look forward to seeing people they knew back at the College Street campus and they marvel at the holistic care provided by supportive housing. They love hearing the tenants say that the social workers are their friends. And that’s the point of all of this—more friendship. Caring for one another—connecting and reconnecting over a delicious plate of fellowship; I mean food.