By Kendal Privette
I sit across from Brittany and listen to her story. Domestic violence forced her to flee from home with her infant daughter nearly one year ago. Unemployed and homeless, she desperately sought help. And through a series of phone calls, coincidences and miracles, she found herself, one-thousand miles from her home, sitting face-to-face with Asheville citizen Mary Sczudlo, director of Homeless Services for Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM). And Brittany had found her place – Steadfast House, transitional housing for homeless women and children, including several beds specifically for veterans.
Steadfast House not only offers housing and food for just over forty women and children, but also education, training, mentoring, life-skills classes and assistance in learning reintegration skills. But with over 11,000 people homeless in the Asheville/Buncombe area in January, 2014, Mary Sczudlo is thinking bigger. Much bigger. Her vision includes transitional housing for intact families. Currently, boys over fourteen years old whose families are in crisis are housed with the nearly two-hundred twenty veteran men at ABCCM’s Veteran’s Restoration Quarters.
According to Sczudlo, one of Steadfast House’s challenges is, “…our inability to meet the needs of the many women and children who want to get in to Steadfast House. We have limited facilities and our waiting list is about eight times our capacity.” With a new, larger facility will come a new name, Transformation Village.
In Sczudlo’s vision, the facility will certainly live up to its moniker, offering transitional housing for up to two years, education, training, daycare and onsite job opportunities for as many as two-hundred women (both veterans and civilians), children and intact families. The plan is to utilize a motel with sixty units commercially available to the public and sixty to ninety units for single women who will have the opportunity to learn to operate the hotel as part of their skill-development process. Income from the public hotel rooms will help cover the operating costs of the village. Separate eighteen to twenty-four unit Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units will surround the hotel for women with children and intact families in crisis. Sczudlo’s ministry relies on ABCCM funding and thousands of volunteer hours to meet the needs of men, women and children who seek shelter at the Veteran’s Restoration Quarters and Steadfast House. When Transformation Village is complete, the need for volunteers to babysit, cook, provide transportation, garden and complete odd jobs will continue to rise.
Enter, North Carolina author Amy Sullivan, whose recently-released book, When More is Not Enough – How to Stop Giving Your Kids What they Want and Give Them What They Need, focuses on moving families from self-seeking materialists to generous servants. Sullivan’s servant-heart grew from her passion for what the Bible teaches about loving others, but she and her husband, Shane, were confused. They thought world-changers had to travel to developing countries to dig wells for clean water or break up human trafficking rings. So they sat still and waited for the perfect opportunity for their family to serve. They waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally Amy, Shane and their two daughters realized that teaching children to love others instead of the trinkets the world has to offer meant getting up and serving right in their own community. As they worked at coat drives and food pantries together, God began to change their hearts, and Amy realized that serving others is more than a series of tasks, it’s generosity with prayer, forgiveness, time, money, talents and love. She writes, “I didn’t need to call a volunteer coordinator or show up at a scheduled time to serve. I served a stranger I would most likely never see again with prayer. Even bigger than this, I saw serving others in new ways – ways which involved more than my standard ideas about serving with money and time.”
Sullivan first visited Steadfast House with fellow church members who were leading a Bible study for the residents, and she immediately connected with some of the young moms. “Growing up, I watched my mom work three jobs, battle addiction, and struggle to raise my sister and me. I have a heart for women who deeply desire to be good role models and providers for their children but need extra support along the way.”
Hearing Sczudlo’s vision for Transformation Village piqued her interest in the ministry even more, and Sullivan made the decision to donate 100% of the profits from When More is Not Enough to Transformation Village. Sczudlo’s reaction to Sullivan’s generosity was deep gratitude, but their conversation became even more exciting when the two women realized that God had started them on the path to Transformation Village simultaneously. At the same time that Sczudlo left her high-paying job for full-time work with ABBCM, Amy’s family began giving away money that could have been used on themselves. “…but the feeling of knowing you are a part of something much bigger than yourself is beyond exciting,” says Sullivan, recalling that first Transformation Village conversation with Sczudlo.
Sullivan and Sczudlo are continuing to work together to get the word out about Transformation Village. When asked what the project’s primary needs are, Sczudlo replied, “Funding. We need the funding to make Transformation Village a reality. In our current facility we can only serve approximately forty-three women and children. Our waiting list is well over 300 women and children. Each one of those 300 is a face and a life that we cannot help.”
Anyone interested in donating to or volunteering for The Veteran’s Restoration Quarters, Steadfast House or the future Transformation Village, should email Judith Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more information and current updates regarding Steadfast House and Transformation Village at ABCCM’s website: www.abccm.org.
Families and individuals looking for easy ways to better love those around them can pick up a copy of When More is Not Enough where books are sold.
Kendal Privette is a middle school history teacher who lives with her husband and children in North Wilkesboro, NC. She writes at kendalprivette.blogspot.com.