ST. GEORGE – “I could talk about this place all day, and I’ve only been here for two weeks!” a grateful Greg Bowler said as he spoke about his continuing experience at Dixie Care and Share.
On Friday, April 29, Bowler, along with follow shelter residents, volunteers, and staff, held a community open house for Dixie Care and Share. Along with fellow resident Laurie Houser, Bowler tended the donation table while other volunteers and staff gave tours of the shelter facilities, answered questions, and served attendees a barbeque lunch.
Like so many people before him, Bowler never imagined that he would end up homeless. Initially depressed and bitter, he credits the staff and volunteers of Dixie Care and Share for his change in attitude thanks to their positivity and simple acts of service.
“The staff is great,” he said. “Their positive outlooks are awesome.”
Bowler recalled how one of the staff had taken his empty plate for him after a meal. It wasn’t a big deal, but rather a small, simple act. He identified this as the moment his demeanor began to improve. Due to a spinal disorder, Bowler has to use crutches in order to walk.
“We’re all family here,” added Houser, commenting on the overall sense of community fostered at Dixie Care and Share. “The only thing you can do is think positive; what else are you going to do?”
Houser also praised Dixie Care and Share for having more resources for the homeless and needy than any other program she’s with which been involved. “Its really good here. They help us stay independent.”
Thanks to the efforts of Dixie Care and Share and associated programs throughout the community, Houser and her son, also a resident of the shelter, will soon be moving into a new apartment.
Billie Acheson, a staff member and one of the tour guides, provided a look at just what resources Dixie Care and Share had the offer. The first stop was the food pantry, where people receive perishable goods. The tour then led into the large store room of the food bank.
“We have a little bit of everything,” Acheson said. The food bank is where food boxes are prepared for families in need, and are packed with non-perishable goods, as well as hygienic items. Food boxes typically contain between 15 and 18 meals for a family, and are supplied once a month to clients in need.
Kelly Knowles, the food bank manager, said that he’s seen a 40 percent increase in the demand for food boxes. Unfortunately, the percentage of demand has coincided with a 40 percent drop in donations. He also marked that, “Once we received five thousand pounds of produce in a day. We can have that gone by noon.”
Continuing the tour, Acheson led into one of two prefabricated modules used for individual and family transitional housing. In the family housing unit, she remarked that it houses up to 54 people on any given night.
Additional services Dixie Care and Share provides are free showers, meals, job vouchers and training for job interviews, clothing vouchers, bus vouchers, and caser management. Dixie Care and Share also works with similar organizations throughout the community to help those in need get back on their feet.
The purpose of the open house was to help people in the community get to know Dixie Care and Share better. The perception that those who go to the shelter and food bank are bums is a gross misunderstanding. These are people who may have recently lost their jobs, or even their homes. They could very well be a relative or the family down the street. When that happens, Dixie Care and Share is there to help.
“The entire community needs to know the role that Dixie Care and Share plays,” said Reuben Garcia, the facility’s executive director. Dixie Care and Share is a private, non-profit organization, and therefore receives no support from the state or federal government.
The shelter is able to function primarily thanks to the efforts of volunteers and donations from the community. Still, additional and continuing donations of funds, food, and additional items are always needed.
A little can go a long way, as it did for Greg Bowler. Individuals may not be able to give much by themselves, but a community brought together to help return a hope-filled smile to those who may otherwise succumb to the despairs of want and uncertainty, can achieve what Garcia calls “an amazing phenomenon.”
Bowler put it best when he said, “It’s a wonderful step, this place. Its’ a wonderful step for me; a step forward.”
To donate to Dixie Care and Share, please visit: http://dixiecareandshare.org, or call 435-628-3661.
Copyright St. George News 2011