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Homes for birds, homes for people

SALISBURY — Spring means it’s time for Rowan Helping Ministries’ yearly birdhouse painting tradition. But before shelter guests set to work bringing color and life to the wooden houses, employee Erica Taylor asked what home meant to them.

The guests thought, and then answered: a small home with a few bedrooms, the warmth and love of a parent, a family kept together against all odds.

“It just kind of shows a lot and a lot of what their thought process is,” said Taylor, the agency’s public relations manager.

“And the goal is that they will realize that home,” said Jeanne LeMaster, education transitional coordinator.

The birdhouses, built and donated by Rowan County native Brian Howell, are given names that range from simple to fanciful: She She, Dad, Henrietta and Pink Perch.

Once painted, they’ll be put up for auction at Rowan Helping Ministries’ annual fundraiser, Pass the Plate. Typically, the birdhouses sell for about $100 each, Taylor said.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” she said of Pass the Plate.

And the birdhouses hold the spotlight.

“It’s showing how everything kind of comes back full circle,” she said.

Money raised at Pass the Plate goes to fund initiatives at Rowan Helping Ministries such as the New Tomorrows Program, a holistic approach to helping people find the tools they need to move forward. Throughout the course, guests learn life skills, job tips and emotional strategies such as how to deal with grief.

In turn, participants in this program paint the birdhouses. LeMaster said there’s a sort of poignancy to the project.

“They’re painting homes but they are homeless,” she said.

She and others use the project as a teaching moment. For many shelter guests, the birdhouses are tangible evidence of their desire for a place of their own.

“And the goal is that they will realize that home,” she said.

Reaching that goal might not be possible without New Tomorrows and community generosity at fundraisers like Pass the Plate.

“It does take a village,” Taylor said. “It takes everyone in the community.”

Pass the Plate will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. April 21 at Salisbury Country Club. Sponsored by Food Lion, it will feature live music, heavy hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, games, and a Charleston raffle.

Tickets are $60 per person and may be purchased in advance or at the door. Contact Karen Taylor at 704-637-6838, Ext. 100, to buy tickets.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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