Juanita Davis, Winnie K. Burns, Anita Helm and Embry Rucker Shelter director Vincent Jenkins stand with Resurrection Baptist Church Pastor William D. Helm. The Church hosted the “Stand Up for Our Homeless Community” outreach event at the Reston Community Center.
Photo by Andrea Worker.
While others might have been gearing up to take the kids out trick or treating, preparing for the costumed hordes to descend on their homes, or even putting finishing touches on their own disguises, dozens of volunteers were spending their Halloween afternoon at the Reston Community Center (RCC) Hunters Woods, manning the “Stand Up for Our Homeless Community” event, hosted by Resurrection Baptist Church (RBC) of Reston’s Missionary Department.
The church has held its services at RCC for years, a place where Anita Helm says that you can sometimes come face to face with those among us who are struggling. “We saw the need and a way to help,” she said. Her husband, RBC pastor William D. Helm, put the challenge in front of his congregation, and they answered with overwhelming support.
Members from other congregations within Region 7 of the Northern Virginia Association of Baptist Churches also pitched in to help. The volunteers helped attendees select food items, clothing, hygiene products, blankets and more, while Chick fil A, Papa John’s Pizza and La Fay Bakery and Catering generously provided free meals and snacks. Some of the services included free haircuts and a special Wellbeing Room, where a variety of health screenings were available courtesy of Oak Grove Health and Wellness Ministry, Reston Hospital Diabetic Education and Inova Loudoun.
In addition to the tangible items and services on offer, the organizers also had advisers on hand to offer help with legal issues, employment searches, social services, benefits and housing and shelter information. “If you are truly going to help people, you need to offer information and referral assistance, as well as the basics,” said RBC Special Events coordinator Winnie K. Burns.
AMONG THE HELPERS were several volunteers who could truly empathize with those they were there to serve. Twenty-three-year old Brandon, of Woodbridge, is looking forward to a rewarding future in IT, but he can recall when his and his family’s prospects did not look as promising. At the start of the economic crisis, Brandon’s family was evicted from their home. Spending time at first in a hotel, then with other family members before eventually finding new housing back in Woodbridge, Brandon acknowledges that the feeling of uncertainty was upsetting for himself and his three siblings, “but we didn’t have it as bad as so many others did and still do.” He credits his parents with doing their best to “keep things as normal as possible for us,” driving the kids back and forth to their school “so we could stay with our friends and where we were familiar, even when we were pretty far away.” Giving up four hours on a Saturday to help others in difficult circumstances “is no sacrifice,” according to Brandon. “I’m glad to be here and help.”
Salome, the oldest of 8, also volunteered to work the event, although she admits that her family “is really needy sometimes.” Her father cannot always find employment as an electrician. The family has never been homeless, but Salome describes a living condition where the basics of heat and electricity aren’t a guarantee. “The place is in pretty bad shape, but you are afraid to ask for it to be fixed. At least we have a place where all ten of us can be together. I wanted to be here today and help because I know what it’s like to struggle.”
Anita Helm, Winnie K. Burns and others from Resurrection Baptist Church look to Brandon and Salome as inspiration for what they are doing. Waving in the direction of Brandon and the table of new clothing items where he was working, Helm said, “Look what good comes from lending a helping hand.”
THE CONGREGATION of Resurrection Baptist Church is already planning a similar event for sometime in the spring, but will keep looking to “outreach outside the four walls of a church,” as Pastor Helm declares. In the meantime, Region 7 member Second Baptist Church of Falls Church will be next up to answer the outreach call, hosting a “Moneyless Market” on Saturday, Nov. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon at their location at 6626 Costner Drive in Falls Church.