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Getting my Ducks in a Row~Part 2

13 Oct fullsizerender-3

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

 

We remained inside most of the day after the winds of the hurricane began to die down. Traffic lights were not working and we didn’t want to deal with the hassle driving would be. So Saturday we decided to venture out. We visited a friend and helped take down her boards and later in the day we drove to the marina. There were four sailboats that had washed ashore, but I only took pictures of two as the others were further away.

On the way home from our friends home we drove through a neighborhood where we once lived. It is an older subdivision with a lot of oak trees. I was fascinated with the moss that covered yards and the road, The hurricane stripped the tress so that some yards appeared to have gray snow on them. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the moss as husband felt a tad odd taking pictures while people were in the yard cleaning up.

 

On our way home from the marina, we drove down “river road.” It has a name, but it has always been called this by locals. There was far less damage than I expected as the news had been warning of a storm surge. Thankfully they were wrong. When we were almost at the end of the road, we saw it was blocked by a tree and back tracked.

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On Monday, we went to the local Target to get away from the house.  The third day after the storm passed, freezer cases remained almost bare.

I was nervous before the storm about not being able to board up. We were fine, no wind damage alt all.  I do think it would be a good idea to order some of the plylox to have on hand in the future.

One of the heart warming and encouraging results of the storm is the way churches reached out to help people, especially widows, single moms and the elderly prepare for the storm . We are blessed to have young pastors who have a heart of love for the community. On Sunday, instead of holding a service, they are meeting to go out into the community and aid in clean-up activities.

Monday afternoon was a big day for many of our residents. Power crews were able to restore electricity to homes that had been out since Thursday night. I was visiting with a friend when her power returned and there was a lot of whooping and hollering going on. Power company linemen are heroes in our community and we are thankful for every single one who left their families and came to our aid.

One thing was missing in the midst of this disaster. No one asked who one was voting for in the Presidential election. Neighbors talked to each other. They shared information and acts of kindness were the norm. This is who we are. This election period has brought out the worst in our country, but Hurricane Matthew a force of destruction,  brought out the best in us.

 

40 Days of Generosity 2016

15 Sep

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

In the midst of the never-ending divisive speeches and billboards that characterize the Presidential election season, I saw this small sign that trumped (pun intended)  them all.

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Guitar, Vocals, Percussion 40 Days of Generosity

 

Last year, our town, Titusville, Florida joined together to encourage and strengthen this community that had faced massive job losses and homes whose dollar values made underwater look like an improvement. It was a month-long event and according to Florida Today, the community raised more than $200,000 for a splash park at Sand Point Park and $42,000 to help rebuild a Salvation Army building that would be used as a family emergency shelter in Titusville.

It was a joy to see and read about the large and small ways the community came together and that bonding had lasting results. I believe that hearts are intended for generosity. All hearts. In the past two months we have seen floods wipe out towns in West Virginia and Louisiana. It wasn’t FEMA who worked hand in hand  with the communities to salvage their homes, it was everyday people. Some were from community organizations, others church groups, and still others folks who loaded their vehicles with supplies and showed up. In the midst of the campaign frenzy, let’s remember that we are not what those seeking power choose to label us. We are good people. Generous people.

 

If you would like to learn more about 40 Days of Generosity visit LovingBrevard.org

Just. One. Book. Thoughts from the Airport

22 Jun

On the Porch 

Onisha Ellis

Last week I shared a blog post about a town that had no Library for their students. Well the call for Just One Book has been answered. I am sharing a small part of the post, be sure to read the rest. It will be worth it. With so much discord going on, this is heartening.

The 2016 Silver Buckle Rodeo Queen, Hannah Lambach, stopped by for me to interview her for the local paper. She’s 16 and a Greenville High School student. Her words, “You mean we will finally be able to check out a book?!” She stood there amazed. Then went and got her truck to back up to the building and haul the recycling to Evergreen Market which employs students. The store owners Centella and Ken Tucker are volunteering to pick up boxes while I’m gone and bring them to the library. Ken told Hannah to have the students who work for him help unload the recycling. Hannah promised to come back and tell others to come help.

IMG_7821  These were the bags from Saturday’s UPS haul. That’s not counting the Fed Ex afternoon bags, or the post office which had 5 rolling carts of boxes.

IMG_7824Sue (on the left there) instructed Jazmin how to orderly open and sort. Jazmin was sort of dazed for the first few minutes. “These books are for us?!” As I was unloading the UPS bags Jazmin opened a box and stared at the book inside. You could tell she wanted to pick it up and go to a corner and start reading.

“It’s impossible to open the boxes and not want to read everything,” I said. “Oh yes,” she said.

Then more students started to arrive to help as I was leaving. I was nervous about my trip to Wisconsin for a few days, but one of the things I love about Greenville is that when there’s a project, everyone is all in–doesn’t matter whose idea it was, or what your affiliation is. If there’s something that needs to be done, someone is there to help. Weber wants the students active in this. There’s a whole lot of thank you cards to write.

This attitude is why I like this little hamlet of a town. Despite it sometimes not quite being in the 21st century, despite the Internet going out in the middle of the day, despite the crumbling sidewalks rolling up at 5 pm (hey they have a grant from the state to fix our potholes and highway and sidewalks!), it’s a great place to teach kindness and breathe fresh air. It’s a place where there is always something that needs to be done and there are people willing to show others how to do those things.

 

Don’t miss out on the rest of this story.

Source: Just. One. Book. Thoughts from the Airport – Throwing Chanclas

Helping Hands in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

20 Apr

We are pleased to welcome a guest blogger today, Paul Cwalina of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. His church, Grace Fellowship, has an amazing community outreach program . 

Helping Hands in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

by Paul Cwalina

Shake the World

Two years ago, a member of Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who works as a supervisor at a Wal-Mart distribution center, noticed that the center was donating food almost every week to one charity or another on a consistent basis. He saw an opportunity for the church to serve the needy in the community.

With the help of the church deacons and elders, as well as fellow members of the congregation, the first distribution was planned for the first Saturday of the following month. A handmade sign taped to a tomato stake and held up by two cinderblocks was placed at the side of the road in front of the church letting the community know about the event. We had no idea if it was going to be a one-time thing or a sustainable ministry.

Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

On that first Saturday, food was set aside at the Wal-Mart distribution center and five volunteers with vans and SUV’s met at the church at 6:00am and made the forty minute trek to pick up the food. The vehicles were jammed with as much of the food that each could hold.

Upon returning to the church, about a dozen volunteers unloaded the vehicles and organized the food, in the church’s basement fellowship hall while members of the community began showing up and sitting in the sanctuary upstairs. Food was placed into cardboard boxes and grocery bags and carried upstairs.

There was little in the way of organization those first couple months. People simply lined up in the lobby of the church and volunteers handed them boxes of food. Seventy hurting families were served that day.

Two years later, there is no longer a need for vans, SUV’s or volunteers to pick up the food. A member of Grace Fellowship Church who owns a trucking company, personally picks up the food with his tractor-trailer and brings it to the church. The handmade sign has been replace with a professionally made banner that is placed on the front of the church. The dozen volunteers waiting at the church has grown to number close to fifty volunteers each month, with half of those volunteers coming from Iglesia Kairos, a Spanish-language church that uses Grace Fellowship’s church or their services.

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The number of families served has grown, as well. In August of 2015, the Fish & Loaves ministry served just over 300 families. Since then, the number has averaged near 250 each month. They begin arriving as early as 5:30am, even though the doors don’t open until 7:00am and the food isn’t distributed until 9:15.

While they wait, a deacon leads a Bible Study for nearly two dozen attendees in the church’s conference room, while the rest wait patiently in the sanctuary. While they wait, a member of Grace Fellowship Church delivers the Gospel message from the pulpit followed by a Gospel presentation by a member of Iglesia Kairos.

The ministry has recently begun to expand beyond the walls of the church as two members take the extra food each month and prepare meals for a group of homeless individuals who were found living in the woods just outside of the city.

When the last box of food is assembled and distributed, the volunteers tear down tables and boxes, sweep, mop and clean the fellowship hall, leaving just as it was found at 5:30 that morning. Volunteers leave physically exhausted, but spiritually satisfied.

Thank you for sharing this story, Paul. I love reading stories of communities reaching out to those in need-Onisha

Paul Cwalina was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania and is the grandson of immigrant coalminers. By day, he is a marketing executive, an economics geek, and a politics junkie.

Citing Ernest Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms” as the spark that ignited his desire to write, the author is now turning his long-dormant passion and hobby into a way to tell a story to the world.

“I don’t write ‘comfortable’ stories. I want my readers to be affected and to think; to get out of their comfort zones just a bit. The biggest compliment I receive on ‘Dropping Stones’ is that the story stays with a person long after they’ve read it. To me, that says ‘mission accomplished’.”

Paul lives with his wife and children in Drums, Pennsylvania.

You can check out his novels on Amazon

Connect with Paul on Facebook

…and on Twitter: @PKC1963

 

 

Helping Hands in Saint John’s Soup Kitchen, Newark NJ

9 Mar

Helping Hands

Onisha Ellis

Shake the World

 

I had high hopes that this week I would have a guest blogger to share what their community is doing to lend a helping hand to members of their community. Since that did not materialize, I decided to continue the series by contacting food pantries listed at FoodPantries.org. For today, I found the St. John’s Soup Kitchen through Networked Blogs. Be sure to click the link above for St. Johns’s Soup Kitchen to read the About page. It appears to be a fantastic organization that  offers not only food, but medical care as well and is supported by free will donations.  I reblogged their post from February 12, 2016. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine –Onisha

What Would Jesus Do?

When I awoke this morning and being aware of the frigid temperatures coming upon us this weekend, I could not help thinking about our homeless brothers and sisters on the streets of Newark. As so on as I arrived at St. John’s I noticed our friends bundled up rushing to get their hot chocolate and quickly dispersing into warm shelter (Newark Penn Station). What would Jesus do? I asked myself.  I am sure Jesus would welcome them into his house, so I decided to open our church’s doors and allow them to eat their lunch in Jesus’ house. The staff and I quickly brainstormed how could this work best, and I have to tell you it made my heart happy. If you had been here, your heart would jump with joy as well to see our brothers and sister taking a break from the cold temperatures eating their lunch in a warm place and in good company, even if it was only for a little while. I think Jesus too was very happy to have had them as guests in his house.

Source: News& Events| Saint John’s Soup Kitchen, Newark NJ

If you have a story to share about your community or if you benefitted from a helping hand, I would like to share it. Leave a note in comments and I will contact you.

Helping Hands in Franklin, North Carolina

2 Mar

Helping Hands

30 Hour Famine

Onisha Ellis

On Saturday, we came across helping hands in a surprising place, outside of the Walmart in Franklin, NC. At first I wasn’t sure what the group of teens and adults were doing as I was distracted by the sight of two guys trying to set up a small tent. Now, I know RV folks will often spend the night in a Walmart parking lot and call it Walmart camping, but a tent?  As I drew closer, I saw a table with cans and boxes of food with teens holding up signs stating they were hungry and asking people to donate to the local food pantry, CareNet.  I waved at them and  made a mental promise to stop and drop off food as we left. As I shopped,  I drew on my observations of the items that were popular at Compassion House and avoided green beans and corn. Leaving the Walmart parking lot we dropped off our contributions and were rewarded with big grins and thank yous. As we pulled away, I decided I wanted a picture for this post. Fortunately Rebekah was with me and she agreed to walk over to them and ask to take a picture.

Franklin, NC JPEG

As we drove through downtown and took a few wrong turns we saw two other 30 Hours of Famine drop offs. Now I really wanted to know more. Fortunately, the event had a nice article in the local free paper and explained that the participating youth fast for 30 Hours to experience what the world’s poorest children and families experience everyday. Another benefit is that teens can see firsthand how they can make an impact in people’s lives.

If you would like to read more about 30 Hours of Famine click the link below.

Franklin area students to fight hunger, save lives during 30 Hour Famine

Do you volunteer in a local helping hands capacity or are you part of an organization that does? Leave a comment with permission for me to contact you. I would love to share your story!

Helping Hands

25 Feb

On  the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

When I was a child I had my heart set on being a missionary. As I pretended to sweep the floor in my makeshift outdoor playhouse, my mind pictured me sweeping out a tent somewhere in Africa. I was sweeping the floor for Jesus.Then I grew up, drew away from the church for a time, and put the dream aside.

A few years ago, my local church opened Compassion House, a food pantry ministry to help feed our small community. I was excited. Working in a soup kitchen or food pantry had been a desire of my heart since I had put aside the missionary dream.  I asked if  I could help and was disappointed when I was told they had all the help they needed. Several years pass, pastors and members moved on and I assumed Compassion House  was still fully staffed. Then, the first of February, a call went out of a need for volunteers to help stock shelves in Compassion House. It was at an inconvenient time but I was determined to make it work and I did.

After the shelves were stocked, I asked about helping on the days they were open, the first and third Tuesday of the month. To my joy, they said I would be welcome! I have worked two times so far and loved every  minute of it.

This is the description of Compassion House from the church website:

Compassion House exists to meet physical needs as well as spiritual needs. Our guests needing assistance will have the opportunity to sit and talk with a trained volunteer who will pray with them.

           

A new visitor to Compassion House is interviewed to determine their food needs and a top notch social worker is on site to assist with social and medical needs.  Based on the interview each person is allotted a specific number of food items. Each time they check in, they are given a slip of paper with their name as well as the number of items they may choose.Then they are sent down the walkway to the room with the food. Our food pantry gives the individuals the opportunity to choose their items, rather than handing them a pre-packed bag  and my job was greet them, usually by name and assist them with choosing items, bagging  and offering help carrying their bags,

This week a young man came in and as he was collecting his items, his movements made me think of someone who might be high. I felt uneasy. Then as he gathered the last of his items, he thanked us and said his children were going to be so happy when they came home from school and had food to eat. That wrecked my heart.

Why am I sharing this? My church is not the only one in our small community who offers a helping hand of food and sometimes clothing to those in need. The top notch social worker spends time each week at several food pantries in town and her salary is paid through a foundation which gets its money from fund raising events. America has good and generous people and I hope to begin a weekly series titled “Helping Hands” to spotlight their efforts.

How about you? Do you know of a church or organization that offers a helping hand in your  community? If you would like to share your story, please comment below and  If you are one of our many international readers I would be delighted to read and  share your stories too.

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