Joy, Nate and I joined 7 from Forest Hills Baptist Church (Nashville, TN) on Monday and Tuesday to work at the Covenant House and the Mary Snow West Side Elementary School. Covenant House is a drop-in center for the homeless in Charleston and has about 30,000 drop-ins per year. Many programs to assist the homeless are available including a food pantry, clothing thrift store, emergency assistance, housing assistance, HIV prevention and smoking cessation Working under the direction of Phil Hainen, property manager, we spent the mornings cleaning and organizing their storage shed, pulling out vines and weeds from yews and flowerbeds and a few other small jobs. Both mornings were pretty hot and humid - Mr. Hainen treated all of us to Frosties from Wendy's on Tuesday. The group picture (Mr. Hainen standing) was taken by Jennifer, who is the adult leader from Forest Hills Baptist Church. Mr. Hainen did an excellent job of helping the youth understand how their work helps Covenant House to provide some comfort and hope to an area rife with poverty and drug abuse. Both afternoons we worked in the library at the elementary school with Debbie Cannada, helping to prepare for the summer session. West Side Elementary is a full year school, with 3 week breaks between sessions. Talking with Ms. Cannada about the students at the school was an education for us. The school is located in West Charleston, an area of extreme poverty. 100% of the students qualify for the federal free or reduced cost lunch program and 70% of the household incomes are below the federal poverty line. The school has a pediatrician and dentist on location so that the students are able to get health care services that would otherwise be unavailable. Debbie Cannada is a member of our host church, Canaan United Methodist, and is an excellent example of a Christian putting her faith to work in a secular environment.
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