Volunteers 'pay it forward'
Faisuly Scheurer leads an incredibly busy life. She works at the Blowing Rock Gallery of Homes and Land, she is full-time mother of two energetic young daughters, and she is a published freelance writer and photographer.
Once a month, however, she takes some time to do something for herself.
Scheurer is the organizer for the Watauga County Democrats group that is in charge for feeding the homeless and hungry at the Hospitality House on every first Tuesday of the month.
"Organizing these dinners every month helps to keep me grounded and grateful," Scheurer said. "You know, if we take all the time we spend doing things throughout the day, most people could offer up a few hours per month to a good cause. With so many sad things that happen around the world, it comforts me to know that there are people out there that are willing to lend a helping hand to someone they don't know."
The group of volunteers that Scheurer oversees is a diverse group, ranging from Appalachian State University students, such as Brittany Sherrill, to local businessman Ralph Grosswald. Each month, Scheurer relies on six or seven volunteers to help prepare and present a successful dinner.
"Some volunteers, such as Ralph Grosswald and Donna Duke, do it every month, but that's not required," Scheurer said.
For Grosswald, last Tuesday's supper was the fourth time he has donned an apron in the Hospitality House's kitchen.
"People don't realize how fulfilling it is until they do it," Grosswald said.
While the dinners are the most visible aspect of Scheurer's volunteerism, there's a lot of behind-the-scenes work required to pull them off.
"Every month, I send an e-mail to Jerry Williamson, who is the secretary of the local Dems, and he blasts it out to our entire database," Scheurer said. "Every month, I think, 'I don't know, it's a lean month, people are out of town, the economy is bad, whatever.' But we always manage to round up enough people."
Once Scheurer has a volunteer list, she works with them to create a balanced menu for the Hospitality House dinner. This month's meal had a Mexican theme with taco casserole, chips, beans, corn and salad. Each volunteer is responsible for bringing enough food to feed approximately 20 people from a single category, such as starch, protein, salad or vegetable.
"We like to vary the menu each month," Scheurer said.
In addition to feeding the homeless people staying at Hospitality House, the meals attract a number of other hungry people in the area. They know to show up at 5:30 at the Hospitality House, and for many it is their only healthy meal of the day.
Scheurer stated that on average, her group feeds between 40 and 50 people every month.
The Watauga County Democrats group is just one of several volunteer groups, such as the First Baptist Church of Boone and St. Mary of the Hills Catholic Church in Blowing Rock, that help the Hospitality House. The efforts are coordinated so that the meals are spread out evenly.
"Any group or business can do this," Scheurer said. "I don't consider this as something extra that I do just to do it, I consider it a moral responsibility. It is not all up to the government to take care of its people. We need to take care of each other, as well. In a small way, this is my opportunity to do just that. In all my years, so many people have helped me out when I needed it, from loved ones to perfect strangers. This is a small way to honor that and pay it forward. I only wish I had time to do more."
For the next few first Tuesdays of the month, Scheurer and her volunteers will fix and serve their meals in the kitchen of the old Hospitality House building on King Street in downtown Boone. The Hospitality House kitchen has been used for this purpose for more than 20 years, and it has a weathered, welcoming and warm feel to it. It is also, however, a little cramped, especially when dozens of hungry people line up for dinner.
In the late spring or early summer of 2010, the Hospitality House will move into its new spacious location on Brook Hollow Road in Boone. The new $3 million facility will contain 18,500 square feet of space and will be able to house 62 residents.
"These are hard times," Scheurer said. "Volunteering makes you feel grateful for what you have. When you meet the people at the Hospitality House, you realize that hard times can happen to anybody. We can't feed everyone in Haiti, but doing a little bit for the people in our own area can make a huge difference.
"There are so many opportunities for volunteering in our own back yard, anyone can do it. From OASIS, to Hospitality House, Hunger and Health Coalition, Meals on Wheels, the list goes on. I want to encourage anyone who can spend an hour even to call one of these places."
The Hospitality House of the Boone Area Inc. is a private, non-profit crisis intervention agency that assists adults and families in homeless situations. It has provided shelter and services to the homeless for 24 years.
For more information, call (828) 264-1237, or visit http://www.hospitalityhouseofboone.org.