Getting to 305 8th Street isn’t as simple as plugging the address into your GPS. You get there by seeing, feeling, and witnessing the sacrifices of normal people, like you and me, caring for those less fortunate than us. Upon arriving, I made my way inside a cozy red brick house. The smell of old wood, hard work, and unsuspecting joy hit my face as I was greeted with open and welcome arms: arms of strength, arms of determination, arms of renewal, and arms to heal.
Cleaning Up a Big Mess
305 8th Street is the address and name of a not for profit organization that assists mentally and physically disabled adults. Their team assists individuals with money management, daily medicine, trips to the doctor, and other errands as needed. They support a curriculum with reading, writing, and chores. Cleaning the house, washing dishes, and folding laundry earn residents special prizes like ice-cream or a trip to a favorite store.
305 8th street lost their state and federal funding due to the different severity of the individuals they care for. While state and federal funding usually assists for one severity of mental illness, they do not assist when there are multiple diagnoses. Most individuals with dual diagnoses are lost to the system. Thankfully, many have been taken in by 305 8th Street. This organization relies solely on social security, donations, and their individual contributions.
Andrea Williams, a woman who, much like myself, feels her place is as a mother, nurturer, and care taker, answered the call to take on this organization and ministry. She describes her life mission best as, “I was called to clean up a big mess.” She knew the burden would be heavy, the work load great, the disappointments high, but the eternal reward far greater than she could understand herself. And even though there have been some intense struggles and battles along the way, Andrea happily celebrates that “grace and time have a good way of restoring things.”
The journey for the founders of this home began to unfold fifteen years ago. A mission had been placed before Andrea and her dear friend Kay. Cleaning up the wreckage from a struggling ministry and organization was the task before them. 305 8th Street started with Andrea’s great grandparents. They were property owners in the city of Huntsville, Alabama, and had a few places that they owned, rented out and eventually sold. The home at 305 8th Street was used to house a few government employees, similar to a rental home.
As Andrea’s family members got older and could not contribute to the home as she saw fit, she took over the property from her aunt who had since turned the property in to a group home. It was one of the first group homes around the Huntsville area. The management was poor and there was a lot of sexual, physical, and verbal abuse going on within the home. Andrea knew the Lord had a big task before her to obey Him and redeem this house.
Tour of Refuge
As we walked inside, I felt as if I was in the middle of someone’s new house. There is a welcoming sense of belonging here. The residents call 305 8th Street their home — this is their place of refuge and all things new. It is a fresh start and new beginning in a place filled with laughter, meaning, hope, and peace. Every door, every hallway kindly decorated with pictures, plaques, accomplishments, decorated signs, and even favorite trophies proudly designate which rooms belong to whom.
This is a house filled with goodness, acceptance, joy, and hope.
The Great Property Manager
Andrea and the staff’s biggest frustrations are similar to yours and mine. How are we going to make ends meet this month? God has managed to provide for them through His people for the past six years through donations, resources, and just by lending a helping hand. Churches have donated time to make and plant gardens. Cracker Barrel donated rocking chairs that adorn the back porch. Preschool, middle school, and high school students volunteer their summer time to help clean and assist with activities.
Because of His ever faithful provision, 305 8th Street was named Jehovah Jireh, Inc., which means God provides. Would it be easier for Kay and Andrea to carry on their individual lives and family forgetting about 305 8th Street? Sure.
I asked Kay and Andrea what gives them the strength to keep moving forward and to keep doing what they are doing. Kay said, “It’s their smiles in the morning, it is them waiting at the door asking what is for breakfast, asking, ‘What are we doing today?’ ”
No Endings — Only New Beginnings
There are few families who are readily available and willing to support a family member who has become mentally or physically disabled. Many individuals are left alone. All they have is their case worker or their caretaker. There are lonely times in the residents’ lives at 305 8th Street and there are times of feeling defeated by the very illness they are suffering from. Some of them have a hard time remembering, some struggle with being active, but they all share a couple of things in common: they know how to smile, hug, and laugh and how to rely on each other and Christ for what is needed. There is no judgment in what has become their family here, only acceptance.
305 8th Street begins a new journey each and every day by the hope of a God who created the beginning. Residents and staff find faith, renewal, and strength in each other. They learn how to live again every single day and have found truth in knowing that endless beginnings are just a prayer away.
To join this mission with Kay and Andrea, visit their website www.3058thstreet.org and you can get involved. Or, maybe the dejected in your city need you to step up and take a stand for them. We pray that you feel empowered to do exactly what you are called to do.