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New beginnings: RHM guests paint birdhouses

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In the basement of Rowan Helping Ministries, Billy Drye dabs bright pink paint onto the window of a birdhouse.

“Every time I think of a birdhouse, it brings back memories,” he said.

Drye said he has trouble remembering things sometimes. But he remembers birdhouses — they remind him of his grandmother, an “outdoor country Memaw” who loved hummingbirds.

Drye is of the shelter guests at Rowan Helping Ministries and a participant in the New Tomorrows program — a class where guests learn interpersonal and life skills. Drye and about seven others from New Tomorrows spent Thursday and Friday morning painting the birdhouses, which will be auctioned off at Rowan Helping Ministries’ “Pass the Plate” fundraiser.

Gail Kimball, a former Rowan Helping Ministries board member, came up with the idea, and has been organizing the painting of the birdhouses for seven or eight years. Her son-in-law, Brian Howell, builds the houses each year.

“She’s known as the birdhouse lady,” Kris Mueller, resource development director at Rowan Helping Ministries said.

Friday morning, Kimball wears a vest covered in birdhouse patches and walks around the craft table, giving comments, suggestions or stopping to listen. She chose birdhouses for the auction because there’s just “something” about them.

“You know, birds have no homes, but are promised food and shelter in the Scripture,” she said.

Each year when the seven or so birdhouses arrive, volunteers from New Tomorrows pick out their favorite, and spend two morning sessions painting. The houses come in all shapes and sizes, from mansion to bungalow to country cottage.

The guests work quietly on their second day of painting, focusing on getting the houses finished. Drye flips his birdhouse over in his hands, studying one of the walls. It shines white with primer.

“That’s good,” he said. “The first coat will go on well.”

He said he’s thinking of painting it green.

At the other end of the table, Dennis Herndon is disappointed there wasn’t a more vibrant blue at the table — he wanted to paint his house red, white and blue but had to settle for spring colors.

Herndon said he used to manage the Okey Dokey & Co. General Store in downtown Salisbury. When painting birdhouses was brought up in the New Tomorrows class, Hendon said he decided to do it.

“Doing things like this helps you get out of yourself,” he said.

The silent auction of the birdhouses normally brings in $800 to $1,000, Kimball said. All of the money is put towards New Tomorrows. Pass the Plate will be held April 9 at Morgan Ridge Vineyard.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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