Inspiration doesn’t usually come with tears.But many of those attending a recent breakfast for the Union County Community Shelter (UCCS) had to wipe tears from their eyes as they heard testimonies of desperation, transformation and inspiration from some of the people who’ve benefitted from the shelter’s services.One of them was 31-year-old Kyle Parker, who was born in South Korea to an abusive, alcoholic father. Parker was a child when his parents died, leaving him and his siblings homeless. They were placed in an orphanage, adopted by an American family, and moved to Georgia.He studied landscaping in Georgia and got a job in Charlotte several years ago. In July, he lost his job and called home to say he was homeless. His adoptive father offered to send money for a bus ticket so Parker could stay in a Georgia shelter.That wasn’t the response he’d hoped for, and he got a little choked up sharing it in front of more than 200 UCCS supporters at Rolling Hills Country Club.“I had no hope. No peace. Nothing,” he said.He wasn’t sure what to do. Then a friend told him about the shelter in Monroe.“The shelter gave me a place to stay. Clothing. Food. Essentials,” he told the audience. “And one day, I promise you, I will sit beside you and support this shelter. I promise you, I will.”His heartfelt speech pulled everyone to their feet for a standing ovation.It was followed by testimonials from three others who’ve benefitted from the homeless shelter, including two working mothers.The breakfast was sponsored by Stepp Lehnhardt Law Group to help raise awareness of the shelter. Last year, it served 149 adults who needed overnight shelter for one or more nights, representing 5,879 overnight stays. This was a 65 percent increase over the previous year, according to information provided by the shelter.Fifty-two families – a 56 percent increase over the previous year – received a variety of emergency housing support – representing 6,048 overnight stays. Individuals and families ate 34,990 meals in the soup kitchen, an increase of 35 percent.The need for donations and volunteers is great all year, said Executive Director Kathy Bragg. But she also said that, “often times we get a plethora of requests for help in the holiday season. “We have about 10 families right now in our motel program, and we’ll be collecting toys for those children. Often times those children are not on the Christmas Bureau list because of their transient living situation,” she said. Bragg said they are extremely grateful for all of the support they receive from individuals, businesses, churches and other organizations.Clients are also very grateful, Parker said.Spoken to after the breakfast, Parker said the shelter has given him hope for his future. He’s grateful for the lessons he’s learned, and the people he now counts among his extended family: clients and staff members at UCCS.He wants to go to South Piedmont Community College to study “something in the medical field,” he said, “because I really want to help other people. You don’t know how bad I want to go back to school.”Now, he looks back at the abuse he and his siblings suffered in South Korea and says, “It was actually a blessing, because I know I can now bless someone who’s been through the same thing.” This time of year, he wants people to remember: “The greatest gift of all is Jesus Christ, our savior. It’s all about caring and sharing the gift of love and helping others – not just family and friends, but also strangers. That’s what Christ did for us – gave us all a second chance.”
Monday, Dec. 17, 2012
Union shelter has lasting impact
Recent breakfast brings testimonials, tears
Kyle Parker, a speaker at a recent fundraiser for the Union County Community Shelter, is one of the many who has benefitted from the shelter's services.
Want to help? To learn more about the shelter and its needs, visit www.unionshelter.org or go to its Facebook page.