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Reader Wishes to Donate Knitting Items: Seeking Knitting Sister

Readers,

First, a message to those who have reached out to me. If I have not answered your comment with an email, please leave another. I do receive them via inbox. Thank you for your patience I’m just one little gal who works full time and is trying to help. So, if I haven’t responded, please reach out again. I have a feeling I’m missing a few return emails, my apologies.

Moving forward, a reader from Illinois has offered some of her knitting tools to Gatlinburg victim. I LOVE this idea, absolutely adore it as I enjoy my craft-time. The reader wrote, “ I admit to owning more than I need when it comes to knitting needles and yarns.”

Law now isn’t that the truth. We crafters hoard… c’mon now admit it. Y’all are among friends.

We hoard yarn, and thread, needles and stuff.

We hoard lots of stuff.knittingsisterneeded

Her email continued, “I would like to be able to help another knitter get started back on building up her toolbox and yarns.” Let me tell y’all, this is a kind offer. Because when funds are tight, there’s no extra for “luxury” purchases such as knitting supplies.

As an aside, I can’t knit a lick . . . can’t sew a stitch either, but I sure do make a pretty ornament when time permits. I just purchased 200 satin ornaments for decorating next year. They are under the bed.

Craft hoarder that I am.

If their are any ornament makers in Gatlinburg, I’ll share my loot as well.

Keeping the hands busy helps in the healing process and so I come to you, my readers, asking you to share my blog. Help me find a knitting sister for my friend.  To protect my reader from any undesirables who wish to take advantage of her generosity. I will ask for verification of old address.

Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble untitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Wordless Wednesday #Gatlinburg 12/26/2016. Taken as I walked to downtown

 

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Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabbleuntitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788

 

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life, Uncategorized

 

The Displaced of #Gatlinburg Give Thanks

The Displaced of #Gatlinburg Give Thanks

First a note to the newcomers: If it’s your first time to this blog, let me catch those up who might believe that “Dolly has taken care of everyone,” and therefore everything is rosy for Gatlinburg folk; please let me assure you we have a long way to go. I personally applied for benefits on behalf of a number of people displaced (because when you are displaced your computer is also turned into ashes). While Dolly’s efforts have been very generous, the program was not designed to help anyone who sub-leased. Meaning, if your name was on a lease you receive a thousand dollars a month, but if I lived with you in the basement and sub-leased from you. . . if I even paid half the rent, I’d receive zero from Dolly’s Foundation. We’d both be homeless, only you would have cash in your pocket, I wouldn’t. Does that help clarify how people fall in the cracks? Hopefully, this explanation will eliminate confusion. Complicating the matter: because a large number of apartments (which I call “worker housing) were destroyed in the fire, compounded with the high cost of living in a tourist town, there were a number of people who were in a sub-lease situations. Additionally, re-building of apartments hasn’t yet begun. Long-term housing is still a problem.

Now for an update:

If you have followed my blog the past month you know that before Christmas, I launched a “Christmas Card” campaign for those displaced by the #ChimneyTops2 Fire in #Gatlinburg. I refuse to call these folk “victims.” These people are displaced. Homeless. Jobless. Scared folk. They are hard-working folk.  Americans, scratching, clawing, hoping to make it through another day.

They are just like us, only everything they own is now a pile of ashes.

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#Gatlinburg Taken Christmas Day Photo Credit: Renea Winchester

I never really know what will happen after The Good Lord places ideas such as the Christmas Card mailing on my heart. I just pray and hope for the best. Several of my friends, blog readers, and Facebook acquaintances were eager to send cards. Once provided with contact information, they went to work and I trusted The Good Lord to do the rest. By way of example, several people who worked at one particular restaurant lost everything. No job. No home. They needed a little cheer.

They needed hugs too, but the best I can do is a little encouragement via the postal service.

But you. Yes you. If you sent a card, a message, a little money tucked inside, you were the blessing.

Today I’d like to share that your cards were received. Your cards have heaped a whole lot of blessing on folk . . .  people who are hurting. People who had given up.

People who needed hugs.

Trust me when I say, hugs can arrive in a tiny envelope.

I’ve received text messages and emails, all saying how touched and humbled they are that YOU would reach out; that YOU would take time to write.

Some had given up. One woman had surgery and lost her home while in the hospital. Your card let her know there are good people in the world.

And here’s the deal, most of y’all did this anonymously. No return address. Just a little bit of money. A little bit of love. A little bit of hope. Y’all are sneaky like that and I love a sneaky love-giver. Yes sir. I sure do. God bless the love-giving sneaks. God bless the love-givers who couldn’t send money. God bless-the love-givers who included a return address. Many people told me they have sent thank you cards.

The recipients cried. I’m crying now typing this. I just can’t process all of this love. I don’t what to do when God answers prayers like this, when God uses me . . . the LEAST of these. I am so humbled that anyone reads my words and then helps someone else. All I can say is every bit of honor and glory goes to The Father. He created this compassionate heart of mine. He knows how much I cry over this type of loss. And he sent you, to me.

Let’s give Him some praise!

During my mother’s agonizing cancer battle, she clung to the promise of “beauty from ashes.” I never really understood her dedication to these versus. I share portions here:

Isaiah 61:1-3King James Version (KJV)

61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings . . . To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

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#GatlinburgAshes 12/25/2016 Credit: Renea Winchester

I don’t know about you, but these versus are too deep for my delicate heart. Joy in mourning? Beauty from ashes? How is this possible Lord? I’ve been thinking about beauty from ashes. I have stood in the ashes of Gatlinburg. I have looked at them carefully. Touched them. Ashes disintegrate you know. Ashes are flakes of powder. The wind carries them, scatters them beyond our reach.

Using plain mountain talk, I must say, “You can’t make nothing from ashes.”

Even when I spread ashes on my garden the wind takes charge and deposits them wherever it wants.

But when you added compassion, when you (dear reader) placed a stamp on a sealed envelope you helped the Spirit of The Good Lord turn the Gatlinburg ashes into a thing of beauty. You are how God creates beauty from ashes.

Whew. Let me cry some more. If you have ever felt insignificant, let me say you are not. You. Yes you, are a blessing to someone and here is the cool part, you blessed someone you didn’t even know! You have created something beautiful from the most horrible experience.

You are love in action and I am honored to know you.

For those who perhaps didn’t have the opportunity to send cards but would like to do at your convenience please leave a comment and I will provide you with addresses.

Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble untitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788

 

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

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2016 Wasn’t All Bad: A Recap of The Good Stuff

Don’t get me wrong, 2016 was tear-filled. It was another year of loss: friends, my mother-in-law, my horse. There for a while it seemed that darkness was going to overcome me. At night I’d lie in bed. My Prayer: “Lord, you feel so distant. I know it’s me, not you. I am unfulfilled. I am empty. Something’s wrong.”

That was during the summer, when the sun beat down, the wind blew constant and the rain didn’t come.

For days.

Then weeks.

No rain.

My prayers took on an urgent tone, “Lord, please . . . if it’s your will, please send rain.”

Weeks turned into months. Grass died. Pastures lost their greenery and, as my prayers for rain continued, my discontent grew.

Then I noticed the cows. Hungry, as were so many animals during the summer of 2016. Then one day I stopped. All my adventures begin when I stop the car. God has blessed me with the curse of seeing things: people, flowers at risk, hungry cows.

At the feed store, I placed one bale of hay in my tiny leased vehicle and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let The Beloved find out.”

The Lord is used to those kinds of prayers, “Lord, don’t let The Beloved find out.”

That I’ve rescued three hundred daffodils from development. That a stray cat with seven babies is living under my daughter’s bed. That I am feeding a stranger’s cows.

He loves me: both The Lord, and The Beloved.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t afford to feed six cows every day. With farmers feeding livestock months ahead of schedule, the price of hay skyrocketed. Those with bovine experience know that feeding during a drought takes more than hay. One needs: supplements, corn, molasses, salt blocks. One needs money. So, like a woman possessed, I took to Facebook and begged complete strangers to help.

My prayer: “Lord, what are you doing? What’s the deal with me and the cows?”

The Lord was silent. He watched. I fed, and eventually petted the cows. Sometimes I’d toss out the hay and cry. Sorrowful tears because there was no rain; because there was no hope of rain; because the Lord whom I love was not answering.

My prayer: “Lord, I know you created these cows. Help me.”

The field became dust.

Strangers sent checks. I transported hay and vacuumed each weekend before the beloved visited. The cows waited for me. They called to me. For those who helped me feed the cows, I am eternally grateful. I still can’t explain how that experience touched me. Basically:  I cried. They healed me.

Then November came with still-parched land. The cows were moved to a better pasture.

Fire rained down on Gatlinburg. You will never hear me say that we were lucky. We were blessed. If you’ve read my blogs or followed me on Facebook, you know the exact moment when the fire was outside my father-in-law’s doorstep, literally inches from the house. God spared him. God spared the house. Regardless of what you believe, I know that the prayers . . . my face on the carpet, crying, praying the scripture, summonsing up my tiny mustard seed faith were heard.

Fast forward to The Distribution Center, post fire. That’s where I met “Jack.” jack

Here is what Jack wrote on FB the afternoon of the fire: This is so sad. The wind is so bad… a transformer explode across the street but God bless them they were there in two minutes and put the fire out. God please show us mercy and save our beautiful town. There’s way more good people than bad and they don’t deserve to have their livelihoods taken from them. In Jesus name I pray Amen

But the fires came to his place. He lived in a tiny cabin that didn’t even have a functioning kitchen.

The fires took everything he owned. Everything but his faith. “Jack” and I have talked about faith a lot since we met.

Again, my Facebook strangers-turned friends- sent checks. They donated to Paypal. They helped him and others I met in the distribution center. Other hard-working people who lost it all, because in a blink this type of tragedy could happen to any of us.

“Jack” isn’t quite where he wants to be just yet. But he is getting there. He still has a job when so many have already been laid off. His goal for 2017, find a second job so he can afford an apartment. He confided that he hasn’t had his own bedroom since he was sixteen. And when he finds this apartment I know that together my blog readers and Facebook family will rain  some blessings down on him.

My prayer: “Lord, Look at you blessing all of us with this young man.”

“Jack” has asked me “why?”

Not, why did God allow the fire to happen. “Jack” asked me, why are y’all are being so nice?

My response, “Because we love you.”

The fires brought us together. And for that I will be forever grateful to 2016.

Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble untitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she meets at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

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Visiting Jack: A Christmas Surprise

He was happy to be working, even on Christmas. He told me he’d earn time and a half, which is better than his roommate who lost her job last week due to lack of tourist traffic.

Joblessness, that’s the unspoken catastrophe brought on by the #GatlinburgFires. Many have already lost their jobs due to lack of tourist dollars. I am worried about them.

The roads were busy on Christmas day. Lookie-Loos driving with their windows down, cellphone out the window making a video of the carnage. Lookie-Loos from neighboring counties who didn’t stop, didn’t get out of the vehicle, didn’t spend a single dime in the stores.

But in the store where Jack works, the line of people snaked out the door. Fundamentally, I have a problem with a business being open on Christmas, but without it, Jack’s job is in jeopardy.  January and February are slow months in Gatlinburg. I am worried about Jack’s job.

He is as well.

He didn’t know I was coming, didn’t see me standing in line like all the other customers. I spoke to the cashier, “tell Jack Renea is here to see him.”

Jack came out from behind the counter, scooped me up and carried me into the main lobby.

People stared.

My heart filled. I love this boy. He gives me hope. I don’t know what God is up to, but I know it is something good.

He quickly returned to work. I stood across the counter and chatted, asked him about a permanent place.

“Still working on that ma’am,” he said. “Need a thousand saved for a deposit. My roommate got some of the Dolly money, but lost her job the same week.”

Jack is staying with his mom some, his brother some, his friends some. On Christmas I learned that Jack hasn’t had his own bedroom since he was sixteen years old. He sleeps on the couch which I can’t imagine because the boy is tall.

“Things are going to be ok,” he says with such confidence that even I believe it.

“Think we could get a picture together?” I ask.

The door opens and a gaggle of twenty tourists fill the tiny business. Jack beams “it’s been like this all morning. I love it.”

I slide an envelope across the counter. An envelope filled with your donations. The photo can wait. Jack has work to do.

“For your deposit stash,” I say.

He leans across the counter and kisses my cheek. His eyes full of tears.

“Tell everyone . . . “he pauses. “I just don’t know what to say. Tell everyone thanks.”

untitled1 Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she meets at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in A Glimpse into My Life, Uncategorized

 

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Desperation and the Changing Clientele of the Distribution Center

I have wrestled with writing this post. I have lost sleep, have fretted, and been burdened with a mixture of the need to inform my blog readers while honoring those who lost everything in the Chimney2 Gatlinburg Fires. Ultimately, this post is to share the changing atmosphere at The Distribution Center.dishonesty

It is important that people trust me, for without trust and integrity I can be lumped into the same category as a cheat and a liar. So it is with much prayers and a burdened heart that I write this post. Things are not as they once were at The Distribution Center. Most people visiting The Center now aren’t like Jack, or Kari. (Read about her here.)

In the beginning, the clientele was shell-shocked, curled within themselves. They didn’t want to be at The Distribution Center in Pigeon Forge. They just wanted their lives back, their clothes back, their pets back. They wanted to turn back time.  However the need for basic essential items, and the inability to financially replace said items, outweighed their aversion to receiving kindness from strangers. Those early visitors to The Distribution Center didn’t want what I loaded into the buggy, they needed the items I loaded into the buggy. They appreciated the items. They often asked, why? “Why are you being so nice to me?” They were grateful, humble, weepy souls. They didn’t want me to give them two packs of baby wipes (which was their only means of personal hygiene at the time), they just wanted a bathroom sink and preferably a wash cloth. Perhaps that is why I loaded people up with so many items, because they didn’t want to take from someone else, someone who stood behind them with another shopper. Someone who was also reeling from such loss.

But now my friends, there’s a new group of folk frequenting The Distribution Center: the takers.

During my most recent volunteer trip I met Alice (name changed). It didn’t matter that there were over a hundred people waiting in line, Alice had all the time in the world to “shop.” Alice took twenty five minutes combing through the shampoo and conditioner samples looking for hair gel.

“Alice, we don’t have hair gel,” I explained. “We have never had hair gel during the times I have been here.”

Alice stood, flicked her hair back and said, “Then go get me some. I was told that anything I wanted you’d get. I just need tell to you what it is and you’d make it happen. I need hair gel.”

I didn’t move, neither did the six buggies behind me.

I explained, with as much Jesus-love as I possess, that we do not order items, we merely display the items donated. Then I explained that we needed to either move on, or move over because we were holding up others who were only there for baby wipes and diapers.

She moved over and sent me to the diapers, after asking for a bag where she could place the hair gel (she would not find).

I returned with bad news about the diapers. There are no size 4 Luvs.

“What do you mean no diapers! Then go upstairs and get some,” she said while handing me the cloth shopping bag which was bulging with shampoos for she, her husband, and her ten-month old twin daughters. She had taken three full size of each and at least fifty samples each of conditioner and shampoo.

Let me pause to add that I’ve volunteered many times and had no idea diapers were upstairs, but Alice knew.

Moving on, Alice announced that she needed baby bottles, a certain kind that we obviously didn’t have. Another ten minutes searching, all while me apologizing, explaining, “we only have what we have.”

Alice wasn’t happy. She rifled through the toothpaste throwing in tube after tube into another bag. I returned half of the hair-care samples to the box so that others would have some, and half of the toothpaste while she wasn’t looking.

“I need Pedialyte, she announced. I steered the buggy toward the medical area. The volunteer pointed to two cases (twenty four bottles). “That’s all we have,” he stated.

“I’ll take all of them,” she said. “I need them.”

At this point I said, “I’m sorry, but no. There are people here who may also need some. You cannot take everything for yourself.”

When I told her she could have two bottles, and only two bottles, I seriously thought she would strike me.

“One of the commissioners posted on Facebook that we could have as much as we want, that’s there’s plenty,” Alice insisted. I doubted that a commissioner had made the statement and made a mental note to check out his Facebook page, and text someone who knew said commissioner. At any rate, whoever told Alice that she could waltz into The Distribution Center and demand anything she wants, or, order volunteers to do her bidding was mistaken. Donors give what they can. Volunteers are there to serve, but not if that means you take everything to hoard for yourself.

We entered the clothing area and she began piling baby clothes into the buggy; boys clothes, for those ten-month twin girls. I didn’t say a word.

“Can’t believe there’s nothing new. Didn’t anyone donate new clothes?” she snapped. At that moment I determined my shift with Alice was over. An hour had lapsed and she was nowhere near finished. Sadly, other people waited. Other people who were, I’d soon learn, equally as demanding, and non-appreciative. People whose vehicle tags were from several counties over, who, most-likely had a roof and a warm bed.

Fearing that others would have a similar volunteer experience, I began regretting begging other people to volunteer. If you have had a similar experience I am sorry. Things were not like this in the beginning.

“I’m leaving you here,” I explained. There are only six shoppers and people have been waiting over an hour. Alice didn’t receive the monetary donation I had in my pocket because I’m pretty sure she hadn’t really been displaced. She has a good job. . . and health insurance. She makes above minimum wage and is not in the service industry. You learn these kind of things when you are paying attention to cell phone calls, ask questions, and observe people.

Coming back to the entrance I stopped and spoke with one of the stockers. I don’t know the names of other volunteers, just remember their faces, having watched them work as quickly as possible day after day, the joy in their eyes dimming as new lines crease their face.

“How you doing today?” I asked while noticing the empty shelves. “Need stocking help today?”

He broke a cardboard box, folded it flat and said, “No. I’m leaving. Not coming back. Things have changed now. We’ve got a new group of people here and they’re taking advantage. They want to empty the shelves and take everything.”

We chatted about the first visitors, how serving them was a joy. How we hugged them, slipped money in their bags while they weren’t watching. How they cried and we cried and everyone was warmed by so much love and empathy. I hugged him, thanked him for his compassion and his time. Then I and wished I had written down the contact information of those early visitors, the ones who truly lost everything.

untitled1 Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she meets at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in A Glimpse into My Life, Uncategorized

 

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Merry Christmas from me, to you.

The Goats and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thank you for generously donating to those who lost everything in the TN fires. Let us remember them moving forward in 2017 and let our generosity continue. (Remember I have mailing addresses for several affected by the fire. Contact me if you are interested in reaching out). Thank you for helping me feed a stranger’s cows during the drought this summer. Thank you for filling me with hope. Thank you for your prayers when my family experienced loss. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Love to all !20161105_160948.jpg

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2016 in Uncategorized