SALISBURY — David Holston, director of shelter services at Rowan Helping Ministries, said moving into the long-awaited new facility is a lot like any move into a new home.
Not only for the staff and volunteers, Holston said, but for the shelter guests themselves.
Sunday, those guests and volunteers as well as members of the public got their first look at the new facility, which begins operations today.
A four-hour open house, complete with tours and refreshments, drew many from around Rowan County to walk the halls of the new shelter.
Executive Director Kyna Grubb led some of those tours, pointing out the new kitchen, laundry and sleeping quarters, including four secure rooms for families with children.
Grubb said there were large groups filling the halls from the time the open house began at 2 p.m. She said the turnout reflects the community’s interest in supporting Rowan Helping Ministries.
Inside Jeannie’s Kitchen — named for the late Jeannie Jordan — Collin Choate Grubb, Kyna’s mother-in-law, stood greeting guests as refreshments were served.
Collin Grubb, Jordan and Ginny Williamson started the original soup kitchen at First Presbyterian Church.
Today, Collin will help serve the first meal at the new kitchen, along with Jordan’s daughter, Lynn Beaver.
Collin Grubb said the response to the new homeless shelter was “unbelievable.”
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling,” she said. “A great day we’ve been looking forward to for years.”
Along with today’s first meal, Holston said shelter guests will begin moving into the new building in waves over the course of three days — women and families first, then men.
That schedule will allow for a smooth transition as the final preparations are put into place, Holston said.
Many of the guests at Sunday’s open house were volunteers who serve or have served at the former RHM overnight shelter across the road.
Kyna Grubb said many volunteers had raved about the expanded laundry facilities and the large, modern kitchen.
At capacity, Grubb said, the new shelter can house between 124 and 129 men, women and children.
But Grubb said she hopes that the shelter will never house so many — but will, instead, help clients become self-sufficient.
In one of the rooms that will be used by the New Tomorrows program, volunteer and board member Steve Henman said the new facility is welcoming.
As a life coach, Henman said he hopes the new shelter will “give (clients) a spark” and see them become more educated and informed so that they can move on and build stable, successful lives.
“I am very impressed with the facility itself,” Henman said. “It’s modern, it’s ‘green’ and it feels comfortable.”
Those “green” building techniques — solar heating and lighting, low-flow water fixtures and more — were praised by many.
Chris Bradshaw, a member of the RHM board who was closely involved with the design of the new shelter, said the process has gone “really quickly, with few hiccups.”
Bradshaw said the city of Salisbury and Rowan County had been strong supporters of the project, and praised the work of donors and volunteers over the past three years to make the facility a reality.
For shelter guest Jack Fortune, the new shelter is going to be a welcome change.
Fortune said he’s been staying at Rowan Helping Ministries for about a month as he looks for work. “I love it,” Fortune said as he walked down the main hallway of the new facility.
“It’s going to do a lot to help people,” Fortune said. “I see it not just as a homeless shelter, but a community shelter, to help the community.”
Pastor Bill Thrailkill, of Back Creek Presbyterian Church of Mount Ulla, came with youth leader Meredith Oakley and youth group members for a tour of the new shelter.
The youth often help with fundraising and volunteering for Rowan Helping Ministries West, Oakley said.
The tour would help the youth members “understand what their role is going to be, helping the community and neighbors,” Oakley said.
As the new shelter opens, Oakley said she was excited to see how many more people could be assisted there — a new shelter with new opportunities for those in need.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.