December, 2010December 2010
At this time of year we hear a great deal about the holiday spirit. In this issue you will read about the extraordinary spirit of the residents of Samaritan House, and how that spirit manifests itself to the outside world and within the agency itself. We are proud of our residents and appreciate the opportunity to be part of the Samaritan House family.
Each November Samaritan House invites friends and supporters to attend our Out of the Box fundraising luncheon as guests of the agency. This year's event was held on November 10 at the Sheraton Hotel, a venue valued for its excellent catering and ample parking.
The one-hour program included a compelling dramatic reading by Tyrone King, brief remarks by CEO Steve Dutton, a new video, personal stories told by several residents, and an outstanding performance by the Samaritan House Inspirational Choir. Those attending the luncheon were surprised and moved by the talent and enthusiasm of the singers, most of whom were homeless only a short time ago, as they performed "Love Lift Us Up" by Joe Cocker.
The choir, established in November 2009, had its first performance at last year's Out of the Box Luncheon and performed in August at our annual Supper Club Appreciation Dinner and in September at the Community Arts Center as part of A Day in the District, each time with new material. The choir literally gives residents a voice and inspires them to hope for a better life. This year's Out of the Box performance was the choir's most ambitious effort yet, and their audience responded with heartfelt enthusiasm.
This year's video, "Rescuing George," traced the progress of George Miller as he was rescued by Samaritan House, nurtured by the Sam House family and launched into a renewal of his career as a scene designer. Visually beautiful and emotionally touching, the film gives viewers a clear picture of the difference Samaritan House makes in the lives of its residents.
George's creative abilities were on display in the Sheraton ballroom, as his outstanding decor provided an inspiring setting for the luncheon. As an added surprise, the ending of the video revealed that the lovely drawing of the Samaritan House logo that graced the front of the programs was his handiwork.
Those attending Samaritan House events, whether it be a visit to our facility for a SamariTour or as guests at the luncheon, are often surprised by the courage, determination and lively spirits of those who have suffered great hardship and are working to overcome profound challenges. Out of the Box is an upbeat affair, one that sometimes surprises even long-time members of the Samaritan House family.
The Spirit of Samaritan House
This is a remarkable thing to have happen spontaneously in a residence where everyone was both homeless and HIV positive when they first walked through the front door. It's far from an isolated incident, though. Samaritan House is truly a community where many desperate people find hope for a new beginning. This hope manifests itself in the laughter you hear in the dining room at noon, in the smiles and greetings extended to visitors, and in the way residents work together on activities such as the choir and the resident newsletter.
Through the singing and the laughter and the working together, Samaritan House becomes a new family for those who live here. For many, this is the first positive family experience they have ever had. Residents learn to care about each other -- and to take care of each other.
You see it when a new person first comes into the House. New residents may be coming from a halfway house or from a treatment center or from living on the street. They are usually cautious at first, used to rough situations and not sure what to expect. Over the first few days there is usually a thaw in their demeanor, as they realize that they are finally in a place that is safe and welcoming.
Older residents take the newer ones under their wings and help them learn how the agency works. When a resident is ill or going through a hard time, their friends are not only concerned, but are generous with their help. One resident in The Villages took care of her neighbor's two small children for ten days while the neighbor was in the hospital. Another couple did laundry and even baked a cake for a resident of Samaritan House during her hospital stay.
The world at large could learn a great deal from our residents about courage, hope, kindness and generosity. During the five years I have worked at Samaritan House, I've enjoyed the company of dedicated and effective colleagues and the opportunity to meet the open-hearted volunteers and donors who do so much to help the agency. I've been the most inspired by the residents themselves, though, and have learned the most from watching them start at the very bottom and do the hard work of building a new life, overcoming bigger obstacles than the rest of us can ever truly understand, and taking the time to help their brothers and sisters along the way.
Retiring Director of Communications
We all have the opportunity to help support this amazing community by serving as staff, by volunteering, or through financial or in-kind donations. If we can match the generosity and caring of the residents themselves, we can ensure that Samaritan House remains the refuge and foundation for growth for those in our community who are most in need.