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Program participants paint birdhouses

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As spring flowers begin to poke their heads above ground, birds slowly but surely return to their old nesting grounds. This year, some of them might be lucky enough to call the fresh, brightly painted birdhouses from Rowan Helping Ministries’ Pass the Plate fundraiser home.

Each year, shelter guests enrolled in the New Tomorrows program volunteer to paint, decorate and name seven birdhouses, which are auctioned off to benefit the program.

It’s a system that’s been in place since 2008, organizer Gail Kimball said. A former member of the shelter’s board, Kimball said she wanted to stay involved in the ministry’s work after she left — so she started the birdhouse auction.

Why birdhouses?

“I had this idea in my head that birds had no homes,” she said.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, seven volunteers worked to paint the houses. While they’re built by Kimball’s son-in-law, Brian Howell, the participants are otherwise given complete creative freedom. They can paint the houses how they like and even name them — with some often lively and eye-popping results.

“They’re using their creativity,” Kimball said, laughing.

The New Tomorrows program is one that helps “address the whole person,” said Jeanne LeMaster, education transitional coordinator.

“Our whole vision and goal is to give people the tools they need to move forward,” she said.

Throughout the course, guests learn life skills, job tips and emotional strategies such as how to deal with grief. When guests leave the program, she hopes they will be “able to move closer to the light.”

Helping paint the birdhouses is one way those involved in the program can ensure that it continues, helping others year after year.

“So this is their way of giving back to Rowan Helping Ministries and to the community,” Kimball said.

In all her years running the auction, Kimball said, she hasn’t had a birdhouse that did not sold. Kimball said she has collected a few herself over the years. They decorate her front and side yard, and she even keeps a few inside her home.

Before they put the finishing touches on each house, Rowan Helping Ministries staff and the participants gather around and say a prayer over each one.

“Our intent is that the people who buy the birdhouses will be blessed,” Kimball said.

Pass the Plate will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. April 22 in Crystal-Peeler Lounge at Catawba College. The event features heavy hors d’oeuvres provided by Morgan Ridge, casino games, a raffle, a silent auction for the birdhouses and entertainment by Jack Suede. The presenting sponsor is Food Lion, with Carolina Color and Alice and Fred Stanback as platinum-level sponsors. Tickets are $60 per person.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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