Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Over the past four years, many of our clients have inquired how they could repay us for the help they had received or for getting them off the streets and into a home. Our reply has never strayed, “Don’t pay us: pay it forward. Do something to help someone else in need.” But, most of our ‘friends’ wanted a cause that would be a group effort. Although there are so many worthy causes in Williamsburg, none of them seem to fit a common bond they could all relate with, until now.

Sara, a friend of our ministry, was seeking employment in the medical field, yet was having difficulty finding a job that met all her needs. As she lost hope, I began helping her search through the classified ads in the Va. Gazette. And there it was beckoning to be seen, “Part time CNA for a 13-year old boy in Ford’s Colony.” Sara called me back a couple hours later to let me know she had an interview the following day, but needed me to do some research for her since she didn’t have her computer set up yet. “Kevin has Niemann Pick Type C disease, but I can’t find it in any of my medical books.” As I started searching for information and reading about Niemann Pick, my heart started to break. I found myself thinking about my own, Tabitha Catherine, whose life of one day ended suddenly due to extreme under-development of her body and organs.

That night, throughout my paper route, all I could think about was Kevin. His angelic face was etched, not only in my mind, but in my heart. Although few websites had information about Niemann Pick, they all had the same paragraph:
It is a neurodegenerative disease that primarily strikes children in their early
childhood years with death occurring before or during adolescence. Happy and
healthy children in their early childhood begin to suffer from a painful and
gradual neurological decline because of damage to the brain as result of the
body’s inability to metabolize cholesterol. This life-robbing disease is not
only painful for these children, but also their parents who experience a
tremendous heartbreak as they watch their children slowly decline both
physically and mentally. No child should have to suffer from such pain. Although
children worldwide are afflicted, research has been extremely limited primarily
because of insufficient funding due to a smaller population of children affected
and lack of public knowledge. Currently, there is no cure or treatment for NP-C.
Neither music, nor phone conversations with my husband could free me from the words that define an unfair and cruel childhood. I kept thinking, “Kevin wouldn’t even have the chance to be homeless!” I know that sounds strange to think, but homelessness would be kinder than this disease.
This was it! This was the common bond amongst the homeless, those who want to repay for their blessings; the cause that is so worthy, we should all want to help Kevin and his mom. Who wouldn’t want to help not just Kevin but all children with NP-C, current and future; who wouldn’t want to help those with Alzheimer’s (the medical studies are intertwined.) I called Sara and told her Kevin was going to be our Easter fundraiser. Usually we do “Love in a Basket” for the homeless’ children in Williamsburg, yet this Easter we want to have a month of events to raise funds for Kevin. What better way to praise God then to celebrate the life Kevin still has with us and the joy his angelic face brings to so many?
Brenda Eadie and her husband had a picturesque life in 1993. A stewardess and pilot for United Airlines, they had just given birth to a beautiful angelic baby boy on Christmas Eve, they had the perfect marriage and now family. Even though Brenda loved being a mother, and Kevin had been seeing a specialist for an enlarged spleen since he was 2 months old, Brenda went back to the airlines within eighteen months after Kevin’s birth. She knew she could have the well-balanced life as wife, mother and career woman. During a flight, she read an article that unbeknownst to her would affect and change her life forever. Ara Paseghian, well-known Notre Dame Coach, had 3 out of 4 grandchildren diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C disease. “Being a mother myself, all I could think when reading the article was that I couldn’t imagine their pain.” Little did she know, that article was foreshadowing of what her ‘handsome gift from God’ would experience.
By fall of 1996, Kevin’s enlarged liver remained and specialist thought on-going painful testing could solve the mystery that haunted this beautiful child. New Years of 1997, Brenda’s resolution was to serve out her purpose to become a true ‘MOM” (Mothers on a Mission) as Kevin was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C. What most parents would see as a tragedy, including her husband who saw no relief and just grief, Brenda saw as a fight. A fight for Kevin, a fight for Ara and his grandchildren, a fight for all children and parents who face a cruel fate and a fight for herself. Having no guilt when she heard that she and her husband were NP-C carriers, she used every ounce of energy to research for knowledge, sought doctors, alternative medicines (which took her and Kevin to Hawaii for Botox treatments), fundraisers and awareness. Over the next 10 years, as the cruelty progressed, Kevin’s courage to live grew as he became an advocate for everyone to experience Hawaii, fall in love with baseball and appreciate the little things in life.
Other than God and Kevin’s love for his mother, what keeps him motivated? Baseball! America’s favorite past-time has become Kevin’s ‘breath’. He started off playing T-ball until physically he was not able. Knowing how deep Kevin’s love for baseball was, Brenda approached Mr. Morgan, owner/head of the Peninsula Pilots to give Kevin a chance as one of their batboys. Each season, the Pilots sponsor the Kevin Eadie night, where monies are donated on Kevin’s behalf to the Ara Paseghian Foundation. But, it isn’t the money donated that thrills Kevin,; it is the love for the game, love for the players, the roar of the crowd, the sweet crack of the bat and the dream that one day he will be on the field once again that pumps his heart with such desire and passion.
School days and socialization with friends ended in December as Kevin’s progression became worse. Mobile with a special wheelchair, Kevin could go outside, but allergies and germs are like enemies to his immunity and verbally, Kevin lost his ability to communicate over a month ago. But, none of this interferes with his ability to make you laugh as he enjoys one of his baseball movies or be touched as he communicates his love through his eyes. This angel who lives amongst us in Williamsburg is proof that even though God is out of sight, He does exist. As I watched Kevin interact with those who love him, I realized that he has such a great purpose in this world and how much we could all learn from him, if we took the time, even for a fleeting second, to be touched by his strength, will, love and courage. And like all angelic martyrs, Kevin has gone the extra mile for his love of God, people and other NP-C children by undergoing an extensive and painful lung biopsy in hopes that more studies could bring researcher that much closer to finding a cure.
Life for most of us remains fast and lacking of enough time. But, when I asked Jane, Kevin’s full-time nurse, what Kevin has taught her, she replied, “Patience.” Oddly enough, I understood her reply. Watching her work with Kevin, you see that nothing can be fast in order to keep from causing him more pain on his frail body, yet you also see the underlying extra seconds you get to spend with an angel; angels that are amongst us that so many of us walk past or forget about because they are out of our sight. When talking with others who have been touched by Kevin’s presence in their lives a common reply was given: “We never know how long or short our lives are going to be, but Kevin overlooks the time and enjoys everything and everyone, no matter how simple it may be. Even through the pain, his ability to touch you with his contagious laughter makes you question the priorities you set in your own life.”
“So Sara, how was you day at work?” I asked. “It was good, but I have to tell you about the lunch Brenda made for Kevin. She decided she was going to make him a grilled cheese sandwich. She got the bread and cheese out and actually grilled it! Then she pureed it so it could be fed into his G-Tube,” Sara stated, somewhat confused about this. But, reflecting back to how Tabitha Catherine would have been after all these years, I understood. So what are the two main ingredients in a grilled cheese sandwich? LOVE and DEDICATION!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

(from "Compassion Corner" in the Toano-Norge Times Feb. 07)

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to improve myself in order to move off the streets and better my life.” Shocking for some to read, coming from a homeless man, but is it enough to make you want to read more about Russell’s life, on and off the streets?

I heard about Russell Dec. 23rd, the night of our Christmas party, when Nikki from WaWa called on his behalf to see if we could do anything to assist him. I sent a volunteer over to pick him up so he could at least have a good meal and friendship, but also in anticipation to see what God would do for him. When Russell approached me to introduce himself, I thought he was another volunteer at the party offering us help. But before I could say, “Hi, I’m Patti McKenzie, what station would you like to work at?”, Russell thanked me for sending a car and inviting him to the celebration. I was floored! This middle-aged, well groomed and dressed man, whose manners made me feel like I should be on a “Geico caveman commercial”, was homeless. Now I don’t mean the latter statement to sound stereo-typing and technically, homelessness doesn’t have a poster-child representing their situation, but I would have to paint a picture of Russell for you.

With no time to change or get ready for the party, Russell arrived just as he was when Nikki called me. Being 5’7” and seeming very relaxed in his nice shirt under a woven sweater and pressed khaki’s, he was ‘sporting’ his ski jacket, neatly folded across one arm. This 51 year old man looked more like a business man in his weekend attire ready to assist a struggling ministry with their 230 guests. A few minutes later, Jill, a guest who had adopted several people for Christmas, took me aside and told me she knew Russell and she wanted to help him. It had been awhile since she had seen him and had always wondered what happened to him. She put Russell up in a motel for a week. But her eagerness to help him intrigued me so that I wanted to get to know him better to see if we could get him permanently off the streets. His case just seemed to be so different from other homeless men I have assisted.

Russell was born in Newport News in 1956. In 1960, his family moved to New Jersey. Both of his parents were severely uneducated, but were proud for Russell to see his education through to graduation and onto business school studying Business/Accounting. Unfortunately, Russell could not finish his education due to financial circumstances. Eventually, he started working for WaWa in New Jersey. After a major health situation arose, he could not continue to cover his living expenses and was threatened with eviction. Hearing that WaWa was opening up stores in Virginia, he left his home (on amicable terms) in Jersey and relocated here to Williamsburg and started working at the local (downtown) WaWa. Although Williamsburg’s cost of living is less than Jersey’s, Russell was struggling to find a place to rent within his means. He checked into the Captain John Smith Inn, until it changed owners. He moved over to the Tioga until it shut down when Mrs. Lee sold it. With very few places left to go, he heard about rooms at the Williamsburg Historic Inn where he was also hired to maintain the grounds. During this transitional period, Russell lost his job at WaWa. On Dec. 15th, Williamsburg Historic Inn closed its doors permanently.

Unemployed with no place to live, Russell sleeps at night anywhere that will welcome him out of the cold and bitter winds. With no family to turn to for help or support, his only option for shelter is one of the 24-hour restaurants where he can buy a cup of coffee and stay in the warmth for a few hours. “I walk about 6-10 miles a day (and night). I don’t want to go to Newport News and risk my life. It is hard to believe that as badly as I want a job, I have a hard time getting one. I have no social life, no family. I don’t drink or use drugs. I just want to find a way to better myself, but at times it seems hopeless.”

For this month’s article, I had planned to write about a family, yet some of their information hadn’t come back yet. Over the weekend, I had mentioned to Rosemary (Van Houten) that I wanted to do an article on Russell because everyone I have spoken with only has nice words about him, yet he still remains on the street. Little did I know God had a plan for Russell to call me today, the day before deadline, to talk. He really wasn’t calling about help. He just called to tell me that many people urged him to call about a small situation he was in. Why? He didn’t know. He has a chance at a job with Busch Gardens, but no address. They told him even a P.O. Box was ok. I told him I didn’t want to talk about the job but rather the article I wanted to do, and he sounded happy to participate.
“The biggest question I have is, why do you think you have been on and off the streets so much?” I asked.
“I have wondered that myself,” he responded. “I don’t have any evictions, but I do have bad credit. Some of the rent prices are higher than I can afford on my own, but not as much as living in a motel. Other than having my moments with depression about my situation and thinking ‘this must be as good as my life will get’, I have no psychiatric concerns. So it must be that I don’t have a job. And I don’t have a job because I don’t have an address.”
Russell is no different than anyone else who sets goals and has dreams. His are to be able to get into the business/accounting field as he first set out to do many years ago. I suggested going to HR Block and inquiring about their tax school. “But that would have to be after I get a small job so I can get on my feet and a place to live. I just need something positive to happen and I thought the job at Busch Gardens would be a start, but with no address…” he slowly stated. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to improve myself in order to move off the streets and better my life
Where Did Feb. Go? Actually, When Did 2007 Begin?

So, life has seem to be a dream. My nightly tasks of throwing newspapers and daily chore of trying to sleep has bled into a fog of 'huh'? Burning the candle at both ends has left me with a trail of wax as I struggle to meet deadlines and assist clients. Clients, wow, now there have been some great successes, but mostly challenges.

One of the ways I have found to help them is to 'profile' them. I had this idea in Sept. but didn't know a paper in town who would take me up on the offer...until I started working for the Toano-Norge Times. I pitched the idea to Rosemary and she liked it. January was my first family/article. The monthly column is called "Compassion Corner". This month's column has stirred a lot of emotions throughout the town and people have been calling to help, moreso than last month.

I have so much to catch people up on, but little time so a W&M student will begin next week blogging for me. But, in the meantime, now that I bought a new laptop I pray I can bring everyone up to date.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Congratulations, Williamsburg! You did it again!
It never ceases to amaze us at Williamsburgs Homeless & Indigent how concerned citizens give and give generously at Christmas. But in a last minute frenzy, thanks in no small part to the article the Gazette ran, donations poured in to supply Christmas gifts for the homeless and needy in our community. In all, over 230 individuals were "adopted" at no less than $100/each. That's over $23,000! On behalf of the recipients, since most of the donors chose to remain anonymous, thank you, thank you, thank you!
For financially struggling parents, one major concern at Christmas is the mental health of their children. Though it may seem trivial to us adults, not receiving gifts can be a devastating blow when the kids return to school and hear other kids reporting on what they recieved. Further, though it takes some humility to accept other peoples' donations, it matters to homeless and impoverished adults that "Santa" brings something for their children to enjoy.
WHI as an organization would like to thank the following businesses/groups/individuals for either time or monetary donations (while maintaining some anonymity for privacy's sake):
Deanne and family, Sword Flooring, Hall Ford employees, Long & Foster, our Daily Press/Va Gazette custmors who sent donation checks into the ministry along with our Christmas tips, Catherine Sweeney and family, Carraba's, Jim and Ann Moore, Tequila Rose II, New China, St. Martin's Episcopal (provided the hall and laborers for the dinner), military and CW employees, Santa with his wife and helpers (Giggles the Clown andcompany), and, finally, our founder (Patti McKenzie) who spent untold hours on the phone organizing,shopping, and cooking to make it all come together.
With this great success buoying our spirits, we wish you and yours a very happy New Year, and pray that you may prosper for your generosity!
Geoff McKenzie

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Christmas Giving Tree

As of tomorrow, we only have 1 week til our Christmas Dinner. The need has been overwhelming, as Salvation Army referred over 100 people to us! Not that I am panicking, but just trying to ensure all on the list a Merry Christmas. Tomorrow we are adding 21 more names and their wishes. Overall, we have 1 week (actually less) to have 95 people, young and old, to be adopted. If you are interested in adopting a person, click on the link on the side and you will see the people's wishes (email me their name(s) so I can remove them from the list). If you can't do the shopping, we will do it for you (after we receive the money.) Although it would be nice for you to join us for dinner, it is not required in order to make a person's Christmas brighter!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I give you 3 guesses of where I have spent the past 2 1/2 days...give up? In the hospital! Thursday, after route, I wasn't feeling like myself...loss of appetite, fevers, chills and nausea. Great, best time to get the flu! By 5:00PM, my upper right side, under my rib cage, had a dull ache. So I figured I would take a nap, since I had been running on empty for days. Then at 6:00, my ache became a throbbing. When 8:00 rolled around and I was still awake, I thought a gang of knives was attacking me, the pain was so great. I told Geoff I was going to the hospital because I was having an appendacitis attack. He said it was too high up for that, but off I drove as fast as possible. After crawling through the parking lot and finally able to somewhat walk through the ER doors, I was ready to collapse. I was taken immediately into the back and test began. Then at 10:00 they brought me 64 ounces of lemonade (ya right...anytime a hospital offers you a drink...don't! It is a trick!) Actually, it was a contrast drink for the CT Scan they were going to run on me. The doctor said they had to do it this way because where I was describing was too high for my appendix. Needless to say, by 2:00AM Friday morning, I was on the operating table for an emergency appendectomy. It was about to rupture! They finally released me today at Noon.

Sentara, as boring as a hospital can be, was great. Since I don't have insurance, they are seeking grants from foundations to assist in my hospital bill. I was able to sleep as much as I wanted (which turned out not to be a lot.) And best of all, I could have all the free milk I wanted (hey that made it all worthwhile.)

Unfortunately, at one of my busiest mments, I must spend the next week at 25mph. That is hard to do for me, but considering the pain (although it is different now) is still pretty intense. I have to walk a lot, so a neighbor, who is studying to be a nurse, is going to take me for small walks when she is off. The pain causes me some dizziness, so I need to be chaperoned on these little adventures around the block. I can't take any more time off from work, so I need to find somebody who can drive me on my route and help with the papers and walk my apartments since I am not allowed to do stairs for a week.

But the way I see it, it could have been worse. At least I will be around for our Christmas Giving Tree program!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Directions from Williamsburg:
Take Richmond Road West past outlets to 35 MPH zone.
Just after speed raises to 45 MPH, look for "emergency vehicle entrance" sign and turn left onto Forge Road.
Go 5.4 miles (50 MPH) to 25 MPH zone.
Take first left after 25 MPH sign onto Otey.
Go to end of road (.6 m.).
Turn right at stop sign and imm. right into first driveway.

We'll be waiting for you! :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Christmas Giving Tree

The site is ready and people may start adopting! I still have names to add today, but a few are already listed. We are estimating over 100 people to sign up for our program, so if you don't see a person/child that you are interested in, check back frequently. To see the list of names, click here or go to www.thechristmasgivingtree.blogspot.com