In our society, there are whole segments of our population who are overlooked. One of those segments is the elderly.
We are blessed to have in our community an affordable living apartment complex made up entirely of residents who are 62 and older. This is not a retirement community or an assisted living complex. It is a group of 40 one-bedroom apartments tucked off the main road in Manteo offering a modest affordable home with a porch and neighbors and an easy walk to the post office and the grocery store.
Many of the residents here have family in the area and drive themselves to church and to the Senior Center and the grocery store and are living independent and very social lives. They thrive in their independence. Others are not as fortunate. Some have health issues. Some are alone. They no longer drive. Some are lonely. All are valued. All are loved. These residents may never step foot into Source Church but we very much consider them a part of our Church family.
Before we got involved in spending time with these neighbors, we would occasionally take a group of children there to go Christmas caroling. A few years later another church in the area asked if my husband and I would be involved in assisting with a Sunday worship in the complex. We enjoyed our time visiting with the residents and started to get to know a few of them.
When Source started its Source of Hope Food Pantry several years ago, we discussed the needs of our community. Among those to consider were those you were perhaps not able to get to the pantry easily. It was then that we started our monthly visits to our neighbors in the Bay Tree community.
For the last five years now, we have packed up 40 bags of food and pantry volunteers head out to visit our friends. We mostly bring small treats and some random items. They all know if they are in need of ‘real food’ we are always happy to supply them whatever they need from the pantry.
While we are always glad to be able to supply for physical needs, we all feel that our heart is really to meet emotional, spiritual, and social needs. We try to always have enough volunteers and enough time to stay and visit if that is what a resident wants. For some, we are the only ones who will say “Can I pray with you?” For some, we are the only ones who will see the photos of grandchildren who live so far away. For some, we are the only ones who have the time to listen to the story of the loss of a spouse or a child. These things are important. These things are of far more value than the small amount of food in the bags.
Before the fateful Covid pandemic our presence at Bay Tree was expanding. Once a month we led a bible study as well as a Worship Service. We learned together with some of the residents, who were often able to teach us more than we could teach them. Once a month we would have a birthday celebration with decorations and cake, celebrating the residents who had birthdays throughout the month. It was a great time of socializing, bonding, and laughter. Residents always look forward to the hot meals that get delivered about once a month when Source of Hope Soup Kitchen has a community outreach.
We will remember our humble beginnings and walk their sidewalks and stop at their doorstep to sing those Christmas Carols as we did in the beginning. But now we will no longer be singing to strangers. We will be singing with our friends.
And as we seek to share with them “You are loved.” and “You are visible.” We realize that in this beautiful relationship that we are loved and we are visible. No longer strangers singing Christmas carols (poorly) but truly friends and neighbors.
Written by Denise Goodale
Bay Tree Ministry Leader