“How has Friendship House affected you?” This question was posed to residents, former residents, staff and interns, to be answered for this Newsletter. It seemed reasonable that I, the Director of Housing, should also reflect on it.
The short answer is: how long do you have? Over 23 years, I have watched Friendship House grow and change, then grow and change some more, all the while preserving its integrity, its commitment to God’s people and its reliance on faith. I have seen beloved residents rise beyond their wildest imaginings and I have watched them fall and even die. My heart has been expanded and crushed and then restored to try again another day. I have always known that it is God who gives us–the staff and the residents–the courage to keep on trying. On several occasions, God’s actions have left my mouth hanging open in amazement.
The year 2003 is memorable for many, many reasons, some of them sad and some wonderful. In that year, my father passed away in September. During that Fall, our former Epiphany House–located at 4th and Rodney Sts–also began to die. The 100 year old plumbing could no longer take the stress of prolonged use. We had to move. We had no money and didn’t know what to do. A month after my Dad’s death, our dear friend Jane Ashford died in the same ICU department, a few rooms down from where my Dad had been. Jane’s family asked for donations to Friendship House in lieu of flower money. Friendship House received $100,000 in “flower money.” Tragedy became miraculous bounty as we purchased the house at 720 N. Union Street, which is now known as Jane Ashford House. Our first residents moved in on April 13, 2004. One of them had been a victim of human trafficking.
The only drawback to our new abode was that it was significantly smaller than our former residence. The Assessment Committee recommended that we search for another house in Little Italy that would be close enough for staff to supervise both properties. As I returned from that meeting, I noticed a “For Sale” sign on 718 N. Union Street–the house next door. When we approached the seller, he said, “I would love for Friendship House to buy this house.” Again, we had no money. However, within a short while, Frank Patterson approached Bill Perkins to say that his recently deceased daughter’s trust fund was available to Friendship House. Frank asked if we might want to “buy a house or something in honor” of his daughter.
The trust fund was generous but FH was still about $50,000 short of the asking price. Two couples familiar with Friendship House had dinner across the street and discussed the dilemma. One person said, “Well, I can put up $25,000, if you can.” Friendship House was able to purchase the house now known as Patterson House. Our first residents moved in during the summer of 2005.
Along with these two properties, we had Palmer House, making four houses available for women. I was content; I was ecstatic. All four properties were located within 3 blocks of one another. I did not want any other properties. We had enough, so I thought. I was wrong.
Early in 2009, the owners of 722 N. Union Street told me they wanted to sell their property and, again, they would love to sell to Friendship House. “Oh,” I said. “We are not in the market for another house.” Shortly thereafter, Christ Church Christiana Hundred asked for agencies to submit grant requests. They were tithing their capital campaign and expected to have $100,000 to give away. It’s a long story, but you know the ending. Friendship House was blessed with the grant and we bought a former barber shop which is now known as Epiphany House. Our first residents moved in on June 7, 2010.
God was still not through. One of our Lincoln Street neighbors asked if we were interested in another property, this one on 9th Street, right between our Lincoln and Union Street properties. “No thanks,” I said. Then, Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church tithed their capital campaign and, voila, Elizabeth House was born.
I have always considered myself a pretty down-to-earth believer. I am not a mystic (much to my chagrin). I believe God is always present, always loving, but not really taking a direct hand in our affairs–at least, not in my affairs.
I can no longer make that claim. I have watched our dear God stretch us and grow Friendship House. I have watched as God has given us beautiful houses with wondrous gardens in safe neighborhoods. And I have felt God say, “These houses are for my beloved children. They are for the poor; the lost; the abandoned; the wounded. Treat my children with respect and reverence.”
How has Friendship House affected me? My faith is deeper; I have seen a glimpse of God’s infinite compassion and love for all of us. I pray to be faithful to this miracle-making Creator.
– Marcy Perkins