Charles County in­ter­faith com­mu­nity com­bine ef­forts for South­ern Cross­ing Project

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

More than 50 Charles County res­i­dents from churches, mosques and other re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions, vol­un­teered their time and ef­forts Satur­day to be a part of the South­ern Cross­ing Project at the Shine Inn Mo­tel in New­burg.

“Who would have thought you’d see the Amish, Chris­tians, Mus­lims and Quak­ers gather for a big com­mu­nity project like this one?” asked LifeStyles, Inc. Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Sandy Wash­ing­ton.

The South­ern Cross­ing Project orig­i­nally be­gan in Oc­to­ber 2015 with the ef­forts of Wash­ing­ton, South­ern Cross­ing Project Man­ager Kathie Evans, and

vol­un­teers from the faith based com­mu­nity to trans­form the Shine Inn Mo­tel into af­ford­able hous­ing for the work­ing poor.

“We are creat­ing 47 units, with a play­ground and bas­ket­ball court for the younger chil­dren and gar­dens. This is phase 1, the demo phase, and we are hop­ing to have it fin­ished and up and run­ning by July,” Evans said.

The vol­un­teer ef­fort has av­er­aged 50 to 60 vol­un­teers a week since Oc­to­ber, with the help of Josh Bar­rett, South­ern Cross­ing Project com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate, who has been suc­cess­ful in get­ting oth­ers in the com­mu­nity in­volved by us­ing so­cial and dig­i­tal me­dia to con­vey the ne­ces­sity of this cause to oth­ers.

“This ho­tel opened back in 1952 and it was a Charles County land­mark, so in­stead of tear­ing it down we de­cided to keep the area as a land­mark and help oth­ers have bet­ter lives. There are peo­ple who sit in lob­bies and emer­gency rooms pur­posely be­cause they have no where else to go when its too cold or too hot. This gives the less for­tu­nate a sec­ond chance and we have 100 peo­ple who are al­ready wait­ing to move in,” Bar­rett said.

Wash­ing­ton said LifeStyles has been serv­ing a pop­u­la­tion that has “just been hang­ing on” for more than 19 years and the South­ern Cross­ing Project, a “God-led” project, is the pro­gres­sion and the next step in help­ing peo­ple in the com­mu­nity.

“This project is so in­spi­ra­tional. We work ev­ery Satur­day, rain or shine, be­cause there are peo­ple that are work­ing two or more jobs who still can’t find a place to live, chil­dren liv­ing in cars and fam­i­lies liv­ing in tents. We have vol­un­teers come here ev­ery Satur­day to show how much they care. This foun­da­tion that is be­ing laid here is where hope is re­al­ized and that’s what South­ern Cross­ing Project is,” Wash­ing­ton said.

Evans quit her job to take on the project full-time be­cause of her faith in how she and oth­ers can help the lo­cal work­ing poor in the com­mu­nity.

“In the Charles County com­mu­nity, the rents range from $1,200 to $1,800 a month and that causes prob­lems for those who are only mak­ing enough to pay their rent. All of the fam­i­lies that move in to these units will be work­ing and pay­ing 30 per­cent of their in­come to live here and the rest will be cov­ered through spon­sor­ships,” Evans said.

The fam­i­lies will live at the site for one year, as LifeStyles and other vol­un­teers work to help the fam­i­lies get back on their feet by pro­vid­ing and teach­ing them work­force skills, nu­tri­tional skills, bud­get­ing skills and hav­ing a case man­ager as­sist them.

Each faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tion par­tic­i­pated in build­ing, pro­vid­ing spon­sor­ship or do­nat­ing food. Other vol­un­teers will help with pro­vid­ing sup­port ser­vices af­ter the project is fin­ished be­ing built in the sum­mer.

“I wanted to work with the lo­cal Mosque and Quaker group on a project and we came across the South­ern Cross­ing Project,” said Bill Hoxie, a Quaker from Patux­ent Friends Meet­ing. “We all have jobs where we work with di­verse folks and I feel that it’s im­por­tant for us to work to­gether on things that are just for the com­mon good of all of us. Its more pro­duc­tive for peo­ple to vent their frus­tra­tions about is­sues in the com­mu­nity by ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing about it.”

Dil­shad Umer, La Plata Mosque or­ga­nizer, said Hoxie and Vaseem Mughal, a mem­ber of the La Plata Mosque, be­came close as in­ter­faith com­mu­nity neigh­bors.

“It is very im­por­tant to take care of those who are less for­tu­nate and char­ity is one of the main obli­ga­tions of a Mus­lim,” Umer said. “We value the ef­forts from LifeStyles and we know Chris­tians and Mus­lims both have the same val­ues in ref­er­ence to help­ing their neigh­bors. This project pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to work to­gether with other com­mu­ni­ties to­wards one com­mon goal and that is to help oth­ers hu­mans. This project is big, I pray to God for the suc­cess of this project.”

The im­mense project re­quires a con­tin­u­ous need for vol­un­teers in or­der to get the job done. Wash­ing­ton said the South­ern Cross­ing Project is also one of the big­gest projects that Charles County has seen yet, with the land be­ing a span of 264,845 square feet and 5.027 acres.

“Thou­sands of peo­ple will drive up and down [U.S.] 301 to see this tes­ti­mony and say ‘look at what God can do,’” Wash­ing­ton said.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Vol­un­teers from the in­ter­faith com­mu­nity of Charles County, Quak­ers from Patux­ent Friends Meet­ing, Free Gospel Church of Bryans Road, lo­cal Amish and oth­ers showed up at the Shine Inn Mo­tel in New­burg on Satur­day to lend a help­ing hand in the South­ern Cross­ing Project. Vol­un­teers are ren­o­vat­ing the mo­tel into low-in­come hous­ing.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Ren­o­va­tion work for the South­ern Cross­ing Project takes place at Old Shine Inn in New­burg on Satur­days from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine. The project is led by Sandy Wash­ing­ton and Kathie Evans with LifeStyles Inc.

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