James, whose last name is kept private, has a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Not too long ago, he was living in the woods, and could often be seen pushing his bicycle around Wadesboro. Because of local ministry, Feed My Lambs, led by Lisa Holt, and with funds from the United Way of Central Carolinas, James now has a warm place to sleep and plenty of food to eat.
Holt recalled that she first heard about James from some of the volunteers at Feed My Lambs. “Finally, I saw him pushing his bike into the woods,” she said. “It was dark and drizzling rain. I couldn’t stand the thought of him out there when it was cold and rainy.”
She said she told James he could come to Feed My Lambs if he wanted food, and about two or three weeks later, he showed up. “He was sleeping on the ground and he was freezing,” Holt said. “It took us a good while to get him warmed up.”
“I’ve known him for about three years now,” Holt added. “He didn’t have ID or anything at first. We were able to get him a birth certificate and food stamps and a Social Security number.”
James first came to Wadesboro to help care for his mother, but once she passed away, he moved in with a brother. But they “had a couple of confrontations,” Holt said, which led to James being homeless and living in the woods.
When he first came to Feed My Lambs, James slept in a box truck on a twin mattress. Now, he has an apartment with Holt’s help. He also volunteers at Feed My Lambs three days a week. Holt explained that many people wrote James off as a homeless drunk. He does walk with a limp because he was hit with a car when he was 20 years old, she said. “It makes him look like he’s drunk but he’s really not.” James is also blind in one eye, and wears sunglasses, no matter the weather.
Still, that doesn’t stop him from pitching in to help whenever he can. “I do whatever I see that needs to be done,” he said. “I see what y’all are doing, and I like to help.”
Most of the time, James breaks down the boxes or cleans up, Holt said.
“We try to emphasize stories like James,” said Bill Norton, vice president of marketing for the United Way of Central Carolinas. “This is his way of giving back to the people who helped him.”
The United Way of Central Carolinas annual fundraising campaign kicked off in September and will end in February. Last year, the United Way provided $16,600 to Feed My Lambs. All of the money raised in Anson County stays in Anson County, Norton pointed out. Feed My Lambs gives out food to about 130 families each week, Holt said. She added that monetary donations are often more valuable than food drives, because $1 can buy one can of soup at the local grocery store, while it can buy a whole case of soup from the food bank.
James and Holt’s story is featured in the United Way’s 2013 annual report, Norton said. A video telling their story can also be found at www.uwcentralcarolinas.org.