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“Good morning, do you need a shower today, and how about any laundry…do you have laundry that needs to be cleaned?” asked Marilyn O’Bryan, one of the volunteers who helps care for the basic needs of our homeless here at Water Street. As three homeless women stand around Marilyn with their bags of laundry, two women elect to use the showers. Taking a heavy laundry bag out of one of the lady’s hands, Marilyn says in a motherly tone, “You can’t carry that, you’re pregnant!”
At fourteen weeks pregnant Tanya* concedes to letting Marilyn carry her bag of clothes. Together they walk to the shower and laundry rooms, where Marilyn will begin laundry as the women get to refresh. “When you interact with our homeless community you see what a blessing a shower is,” says Marilyn as she’s opening a new pack of razors and organizing shampoo and conditioner.
Every day men and women without a home, and who are sometimes sleeping in their car, arrive at the Community Homeless Outreach Center, the day shelter at Water Street, to get off the streets. They have access to Life Coaches who will provide them with individual options for getting help, computers, a phone, coffee, water, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“When you put yourself in their shoes you realize no one else is going to do this for them,” says Marilyn as she throws a load of wet clothing into the drier. By now the first group of women is finished with their showers. As they walk back to the day shelter, looking rejuvenated, they thank Marilyn for being there. Some are wearing the same clothing they arrived in, but that’s a superfluous observation upon realizing the essential value of a hot shower when you have no place to call home.
Marilyn began volunteering at Water Street because she had the time. She and her husband are both retired from successful engineering careers with DuPont and decided to move into a new community at Willow Valley. They discovered Grace Community Church and quickly found Lancaster to be a great place to call home. Today she is a strong voice for the homeless at Water Street.
“When someone struggles with their self-worth and they see someone give of their time and resources they feel valued. The Lord loves them, and they do add value to our world; they can make something of themselves.”
When she first began volunteering Marilyn recognized a need: the wash clothes and towels were old. So, she asked the Pastor at Grace Community Church to ask the congregation to donate towels. They rallied around the cause and collected about 400 new towels and washcloths. Today those new supplies are distributed around Water Street so all guests who come here for shelter have soft fluffy towels and washcloths.
As Marilyn folds a faded pair of jeans with holes in the pockets, she comments about what she has gleaned from her role as a volunteer, “When someone struggles with their self-worth and they see someone give of their time and resources they feel valued. The Lord loves them, and they do add value to our world; they can make something of themselves.”
Marilyn won’t take credit for making a homeless person’s day better, instead she simply says she is here in a support role to the staff and to the homeless; making their daily existence a little better. “I feel blessed and so I want to give back,” Marilyn says as she gives a hairdryer to a homeless woman.