As Charlotte wrestles with issues like lack of affordable housing and economic mobility, homelessness remains at a high level. As a result, the Center of Hope regularly operates at capacity and in many cases, calls on the local faith community to partner to address the lack of space. Every year, Providence Presbyterian Church in South Charlotte answers the call and opens its doors to 12 homeless women for two weeks, providing shelter, meals, shower facilities, activities, and above all, friendship.
“When the women are here, we cancel everybody,” said Tandy Graham, who founded the program at Providence Presbyterian. According to a recent article in The Charlotte Observer, the program now requires several hundred church volunteers, who do everything from drive the women to and from the Salvation Army Center of Hope uptown to pick up and doing the women’s laundry twice a week. Other church members help the women write resumes and prepare for job interviews. The women are invited to stay on the church campus over the weekends, and church and community members lead activities and programs for them. They bring in manicurists, jewelry makers, hairstylists and others to lead classes.
Seraphina showed up at Providence Presbyterian from the Center of Hope last fall, and she left quite an impression.
“Her smile spoke of the gratitude she was feeling for the sanctuary we were offering,” said Graham. “That smile never seemed to leave her face for the entire two weeks she was with us. You could just feel the love she has for Jesus all the time.”
Seraphina had a career as an accountant, but she felt a calling on her life to come to Charlotte as a missionary. She never imagined she would find herself homeless. But, she just kept on trusting God, each day looking to Him to answer the question, “What next?”
During her stay at Providence Presbyterian, volunteers had arranged for Community Culinary School of Charlotte to come and speak to the women about their culinary training program. It turned out to be a divine appointment for Seraphina, who had always dreamed of being a baker.
Chef Ron, Executive Director and Chef for the school, shared about the available 14-week tuition free training and how it prepares graduates for good jobs in the restaurant industry.
Seraphina felt moved to apply, and she was accepted. At her graduation, she received the Ruth Award for her exemplary attitude, and she was one of two graduates in the 22-year history of the school to have perfect attendance for 14 weeks!
While she quickly had several job opportunities in Charlotte, she followed God’s call again to move home to Tulsa, Okla., where her family lives. There, she was hired as a baker at a 5-star contemporary restaurant, where she’s thriving. In just a few short weeks, bakery sales had increased 14 percent. Seraphina’s story is proof that though “weeping may stay for the night, rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 130:5). Seraphina’s faith and perseverance during hard times lead her to a bright beginning.
Seraphina keeps in touch with Graham and the other volunteers from the Providence Presbyterian program. She sends photos to show her new friends what she’s been up to. And, of course, the first thing Graham sees is that she’s still smiling.