From left to right, Modern Woodmen representative Morgan Lavender, GPL Teen Coordinator Allie Gunter, volunteer Lela Miller, GPL Teen Department Manager Rachel Cole, Modern Woodmen activity coordinator Kristi Kent and GPL Director Craig Scott hang scarves, gloves and toboggans for homeless men and women throughout the community.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
A collection of local individuals is nurturing a cause greater than themselves.
Inspired to provide for those who are without, Modern Woodmen of America recently partnered with the Gadsden Public Library to spread kindness and hope throughout the community.
Modern Woodmen activity coordinator and The Love Center board chair Kristi Kent realized a desperate need within the Gadsden community, recognizing the numerous individuals navigating life without homes or support systems. While The Love Center (as well as The Salvation Army) provides temporary housing and food to homeless men and women throughout Etowah County, Kent understands the need for more resources remains.
Kent noted that homeless individuals are required to leave The Salvation Army at 7 a.m. to apply for jobs and cannot return until 7 p.m. She said that when the weather turns cold, they often migrate towards the Gadsden Public Library for either warmth or computer services to seek potential jobs. With the frigid nature of the past few weeks, Kent determined one way to lend a helping hand.
On Wednesday, December 30, Kent joined Modern Woodmen Financial Representative Morgan Lavender, GPL Director Craig Scott, GPL Teen Hive Department Manager Rachel Cole, GPL Teen Coordinator Allie Gunter and several volunteers to hang scarves, gloves and toboggans in the trees and benches surrounding the front entrance of the library. The group also performed landscaping work, planting trees and shrubs to spruce up the area.
“Modern Woodman has been a wonderful partner with us over the years, and this is just one more way we can help the community alongside Morgan, Kristi and Carolyn,” said Cole.
The project sprouted from Kent’s generous heart and her ever-present desire to help those in need. She recalled an experience with a young woman she assisted just last Christmas, who Kent discovered sleeping under a restaurant bench. As the rain poured and the air froze, the 21-year-old wore no gloves and only a pair of socks to cover her feet.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is people in our community don’t realize how many homeless people we have,” said Kent. “It’s little things like that [21-year-old] that are heartbreaking, but also inspiring to know that we as a community can help these people. We have the means, we just need more to help them with.”
Lavender noted that the project was possible via Modern Woodmen’s yearly funding and mission to develop service projects throughout the community. Lavender shared that with the current COVID-19 restrictions that inhibit direct contact, the organization’s activities have proved limited and clients were not able to be involved extensively. While Lavender accepts donations that she herself can deliver, with projects like Kent’s, leaving winter clothing pieces in a contactless manner ensured that those in need would receive the items safely.
Lavender reflected on her personal volunteerism through her church with The Salvation Army, where she provided homeless individuals with a meal. When Kent proposed a project geared towards benefiting the homeless in Gadsden, Lavender immediately agreed.
“I just think it’s very important to give back when possible,” said Lavender. “Any event we have, we encourage our members to come and participate if possible. That’s part of Modern Woodmen’s mission and creed – to put back into the community. I love the hands-on activity, where you can have a cause, something that means a lot to you that you want to go out and change, and you’re able to physically go out and do that. Action is what causes change…you can immediately see a difference after you leave a service project.”
Modern Woodmen’s partnership with the GPL results from the efforts of numerous individuals who commit themselves to considering the circumstances of others and striving to change their community for the better. This project emerges as one example of what can occur when generous and dedicated women and men unite to evoke positive change, representing how one act of kindness can influence a life, providing hope and inspiration for a greater tomorrow.
“When you see a need or when you see something you want changed, don’t be scared to go out and make that first step,” said Lavender. “Start something on your own. Reach out to an organization or people about how you can help, how you can get involved, how you can start creating a wave of action. One person can make a difference.”