“In everything give thanks…”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Carol Karpf had a lucrative accounting position at a prestigious company. But she hated it.
“I don’t know why, but I had homelessness in my heart,” she said, even though she had never considered working in that field. It wasn’t until she followed her heart and volunteered at the Norcross Coop that her real calling came to light. Through a series of fortuitous events, she became the director of the SaltLight Center.
“God kicked me out of that job and I am so thankful for that,” Karpf said.
SaltLight Center, run by Family Promise, is a volunteer-run emergency shelter for homeless single women and women with children. It provides a safe and loving overnight stay for those in need and Karpf is most grateful for all its willing volunteers.
A network of local congregations provide ongoing support and about 50-60 volunteers regularly serve as hosts for dinner, evening and overnight.
“Married couples host overnight and call it a date night and some friends consider it a girls’ night out,” Karpf said.
One volunteer quipped, “Who knew you could serve Jesus in your sleep?”
Regular volunteers also clean, organize fund raising events and collect toiletries for “goodie bags” for each guest. But there is no regular time commitment required. Jon Atniip recently earned his Eagle Badge by doing a major remodeling job.
The shelter can house eleven guests at a time and each room, thanks to volunteer labor and contributions, is beautifully decorated with coordinated comforters and curtains. Volunteers maintain a big box of toys and school supplies for children and interact in compassionate conversation with their mothers along with providing devotional books and planners to help them organize their lives.
Volunteers, as well, are thankful for the personal growth they themselves experience at SaltLight.
“The guest interaction is definitely most important to me. Having the opportunity to encourage someone when they are at their lowest is wonderful,” a SaltLight volunteer said.
“We are also blessed to have the support of the mayor, the police department and the surrounding community,” Karpf said.
Then there are the guests themselves, who are often overwhelmed at the accommodations and the acceptance they find here. Many come from upscale lifestyles and suddenly, due to the economy, find themselves homeless. Some charities will put them up in an extended stay motel where they have to share beds and are exposed to drugs and violence. Their children suffer a stigma at school when classmates discover where they are living.
One child, who begged his mother not to bring him to SaltLight, lit up in awe when he saw he would have his own bed. After a a warm welcome and a hot dinner from the evening hosts, he threw his arms around his mother and said, “Thank you for bringing me here!”
Bean counting in the corporate world may be part of her past, but at SaltLight, Karpf continually counts her blessings.
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at email@example.com.