Sitting down at a table for meals is important to Curtis Joe.
He was a teenager before he could do that.
For a long time, Joe ate from newspapers on a floor. He grew up in foster care amid adoption arrangements.
Instead of memories of family meals, Joe talks about abuse, which went on until he was 12, when a police officer intervened.
He had run away 336 times in a year but had nowhere to go for help.
When children and adolescents sign themselves into The Relatives crisis center, where Joe is program manager, he wants them to feel at home, especially at the dining table.
The Dilworth house where the crisis center operates was built in the 1920s, but the kitchen is now a modern wonder compared to what it was a few months ago.
Nonprofit HomeAid Charlotte did the updates as its annual project, at no cost to the agency. The work was complete just in time for the holidays.
The room has new appliances, countertops and floors, fresh paint, two computer desks and a big dining table where everyone can gather.
"The kitchen is up to date, and it just feels so good," Joe said. "It makes you want to be in there."
HomeAid Charlotte is the charitable arm of the HomeBuilders Association of Charlotte. It brings together the building-industry, donors and volunteers to remodel or create houses for the homeless.
In Mecklenburg County, more than 6,500 people are believed to be homeless, by HomeAid's count.
HomeAid recruits a member of the HomeBuilders Association of Charlotte each year to work as a builder captain for an annual project.
The slowdown in the home building industry makes it more difficult to get volunteers and donations. Yet, a list of vendors supported the project at The Relatives, which serves young people, ages 7-17, in crisis due to homelessness and family discord as well as those who have aged out of our public systems. Many are without the skills and support they need to live independently.
JE Dunn Construction was the building captain for the project. Larry Burton of Greenleaf Construction and Development was among the volunteers.
The kitchen had been renovated several times, but this time crews went after the biggest problems, said Burton, also a HomeAid board member.
"The floors were in the worst condition," he said. "If you think of a soup bowl, that's the condition the floors were in."