Volunteer Corner with Rich Sanderson​

 Volunteer Rich Sanderson with a friend at Green Street Church of Christ. 

Volunteer Rich Sanderson with a friend at Green Street Church of Christ. 

Longtime volunteer Rich Sanderson provided an account of his experiences delivering meals to the Green Street Church of Christ. The church has a history of helping the poor. Since 2012, people experiencing homelessness have been allowed to camp on the property, and it recently became the site for the first micro home project for homeless in Nashville. This is one of the few remaining transitional spaces in the city for people who have not been able to access other shelter.

It’s the forth Saturday of the month and our Nashville Food Project Truck #2 is carrying a hot, healthy meal. Pulling up to the front of Green Street Sanctuary, we honk the horn several times, serving as the “dinner bell” and announcing we have arrived.

We have been coming to “the Sanctuary” as TNFP’s ambassadors for three or more years now. Faces have changed many times. But the tents, the big gray sea container with extra living supplies, the pile of wood in the corner, have pretty much stayed the same. An added privacy fence, the food and cook tent we donated as well as mulch by the tents have helped make the place a little bit more like home for those who stay here.

I recall so many familiar faces such as Becky, who left a couple years ago. She took a job cleaning out crawl spaces under houses, and it has helped her afford rent on a small apartment. She stops by now and then.

Kenny, full of energy and often wearing a Vietnam veteran hat, had just been released after 15 years in an Indiana prison when we met him. He came to Nashville to start over. Kenny wasn’t at the Sanctuary long. I hope he feels cleared of his guilt and shame and is making a new life for himself.

Denise’s family had lived in buses and cars, motel rooms, shelters her whole life. But she told me one time she wasn’t really homeless. She had a tent. She had a community family. This was the life she was used to. This lifestyle had been physically tough on her, though. I really worry about her health. Lately she has not been around. Others have said she disappeared a couple of months ago. I pray she has a bus or a tent or a shelter of some kind to live in.

Robert was at the original tent city along the Cumberland River when it was washed to oblivion during the big Nashville flood. He always entertained us with his impression of Donald Duck. It was perfect and hilarious. Over the months, Robert lost all kinds of weight. One Saturday I pulled him aside: “Are you alright, brother?” He said he had been to the clinic. They took X-rays, and it looked like he had lung cancer. A few months later, Robert was able to get a good corner selling The Contributor. He moved to an apartment. Others tell us he’s alive and hanging in there.

As we finished serving our meals for the day out of the truck, we counted 12 residents that had dined with us. We took the leftovers to the food tent for those uptown selling the paper or for those just passing through. I counted 21 tents. Only 3 spots were left before the Sanctuary’s “no vacancy” sign would go up.

On our ride back, we were thankful for our own graces, thankful for being able to serve and have some fellowship with those that have so little, thankful for Nashville Food Project, and thankful God had decided to work through us providing for some of his children.

Rich Sanderson