Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why I Serve At The River

There are times when the days are long, the weeks take forever, and the weekends seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. To be honest, this was one of those times. It is summer and there are so many women and children visiting The River, I have not had a vacation since I don't remember when, and it is less than a month until I go to visit my family in Minnesota. There are many women in crisis and need and I was tired from a long week. Did I mention it was Friday?! Around 1:15 p.m. in walked River regular Anna and she had a baby with her. Anna explained that the baby girl belonged to a young, stressed-out mom who had a five year old, 3 year old and this baby. I asked Anna what the baby's name was, but she could not remember. Anna had decided to give the mom a break for the afternoon and watch the baby. They would meet up back at the Salvation Army at dinner time. Anna, who is homeless, asked to take a shower and as I was giving her the towels and toiletries pack, I told her I would watch "Baby Girl."
Baby Girl was beautiful! She had the biggest dark eyes, huge cheeks, and hardly any hair. I would guess she was around 10 months old. She was asleep and I immediately noticed how dirty she was. Not only her clothes, but her little person too. The stroller she was lying in was filthy and she had obviously been eating the food out of the little section in the front of the stroller where 3 pieces of dirty snack sat. My volunteer Mischele said, "She really needs a bath." That was exactly what I was going to do!
My daughter is about to turn 15 and it had been a long time since I had given a baby a bath. I gathered up towels, baby shampoo and baby cleaner, and cleaned out the kitchen sink. I let the water run to get the right temperature and prepared to take off Baby Girl's dirty shirt and pants. The second I put her in the water, she started to make buzzing noises and splash. She loved it. I washed her hair first and then spent time cleaning off the sweaty grime that had collected all over her little body. After a few minutes, it was time to wrap her up in towels and dry her off.
Anna had mentioned that her mom was down to 4 more diapers, and we had just received diapers as part of a commodity grant. I gathered up diapers, wipes, baby food, lotions, powder, shampoo and soap for the mom. Anna had noticed how dirty her shirt was and had stopped at a thrift store along the way and purchased a cute, pink, polka-dotted dress. I rubbed lotion on her- yes, she had that good baby smell- and we put on her new dress and a clean diaper. She was so happy and enjoyed all of the attention she was getting from the ladies at The River. Baby Girl especially liked to be sung too, and for the next hour we entertained her with every song we could remember.
While I was giving her a bath and dressing Baby Girl, Mischele spent time cleaning up the stroller. It needed a real good scrubbing, and the fabric parts really could have stood to be taken apart and washed in the machine- but we did not have the time. We placed a clean white towel on the seat so she could be put back into the stroller on something clean. It was a huge improvement.
In the small amount of time I spent with Baby Girl, I was reminded of why I treasure being at The River. Every now and then it really feels as if I am doing God's work, and using my time and talents to serve the Lord. I am ashamed to say that I sometimes selfishly need these special moments as a reminder. It was a blessing from God to spend a little time loving Baby Girl, and I am thankful. God is so good. Thank you Lord.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Girl Scout Troop #43 from Erwin, TN visits The River

The River was pleased to host the members of Girl Scout Troop #43 from Erwin, Tennessee on Monday, June 7, 2010. While at The River, the troop participated in morning devotions, toured The River and learned how it works, treated the ladies to nail and toes polishes, helped organize some dental care goody bags, and learned more about the issue of poverty and homelessness.

For me, the highlight of their visit was watching the Girl Scouts interact with our River guests while painting their nails. This was a wonderful opportunity for the girls to do something fun, yet familiar, while interacting with the River ladies. It was literally a hands-on experience and they did a great job (including my wonderful dark blue nails with silver stars!). Thanks to all the girls from troop #43: Lauren, Kayla, Taylor, Miranda, Abby, Megan, Sarah, Megan, and leaders Rita, Kay, and Angela!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Books-A-Million will be hosting a Book Fair Fundraiser to support The River on Saturday, June 12th from 2-6 p.m. Books-A-Million is located at 2116 North Roan Street in the Johnson City Plaza Shopping Center by Target. Come and see our River display, purchase some good stuff, and help to keep The River flowing for women and children in need in the Tri-Cities. Please call 423-926-8111 for more information.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Beginning June 1, 2010, The River will be extending its hours of operations to accommodate the demand for our services. In the past we were open from 9 am to 3 pm, NOW WE WILL BE OPEN ONE HOUR EARLIER from 8 am to 3 pm. Most morning there are 3-12 women waiting in line to start washing their clothes. Some women come as early as 6:30 am to start the line. It is our hope that this additional hour can allow two more women the opportunity to wash clothes, help women who work 9-5 to take a shower before heading off to work, provide a place for women staying at The Salvation Army who must leave at 8 am, and cut down on the number of women waiting outside for The River to open. Laundry must still be started by 1 pm and no more showers taken after 2:30 pm.

First Crop From River Garden

On May 25, 2010 River Gardener Mary harvested our first crop from The River garden: 3 radishes! This year the garden includes lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, onions, beans, okra, eggplants, a variety of herbs, and for the first time....potatoes! Although the women may work in the garden at anytime, Tuesday mornings are the big garden day. Stay tuned for more information as food is harvested.

Over The Shoulder Boulder Holder Day at The River

Photo (Back Row from Left to Right): Crystal Reynolds, Paula Simonton, Christy Curtis, Annie Banaszak (Front Row from Left to Right): Robin Yell, Betsy Beaver

There are many ways that The River supports and lifts up the women we serve. On May 25, 2010 The River did exactly that with our second annual Over The Shoulder Boulder Holder Give Away Day. Over 40 women received a free bra with the help of Betsy Beaver, Annie Banaszak, Stacy Larsen and Joan Swingle. Many of the women struggle to afford a good, well fitting bra and it was not uncommon for the women to thank us over and over for their new gift.
Although The River does not accept donations of clothing, we do however collect new bras, underwear, and socks to distribute to those in need. Donations of these items can be brought to The River any time of year during our hours of operation (Monday-Friday 8 am - 3 pm). Please call 423-926-8111 with any questions.