Leslie Graham likes to say that Open Door Ministries is as reliable as the post office and busier than McDonald’s.
As of last year, the High Point-based non-profit had served over a million meals to, in Graham’s words, “anyone and everyone in the community” of High Point and surrounding areas.
“There are no restrictions, limits or qualifications,” Graham said. “You just have to be hungry.”
Besides serving meals out of their on-site kitchen 365 days a year, Open Door Ministries confronts clients’ needs relating to poverty, housing and homelessness all year round. Graham, the organization’s director of development and donor services, declared that “nothing in this building is sold. If you need a toothbrush, I will find it and give it to you.”
When I visited the organizations’ main campus — they also serve homeless male veterans at the 14-bed Cassell House — last week, Graham’s office was piled up with a fresh delivery of actual toothbrushes. Graham’s real-estate license, colorful mementos of Open Door’s past events and a bustling hallway augmented the vivid, lively space.
Scrunched in the jumbled office corner, I sensed a familiar down-to-the-nubbins chill of reality cascading through my body. During my childhood, when my father worked at a similar nonprofit, I recall peering over my father’s shoulder as he conversed with homeless folks on Fayetteville, NC’s downtown redlight district. Once client’s story from that period has stuck with me in vivid detail: while gingerly handling a white billiards cue ball, a Vietnam vet and former math professor described his descent from prominence in academia into homelessness.
That memory returned to my mind when Graham discussed her staff’s strategy to “find out what led to [clients’] homelessness. “You cannot identify a homeless person just by looking at them. You dont know their circumstances,” Graham said.
For the ecumenical organization, preparedness to serve those in need prevails as a way of life and a matter of creed. But rather than treating clients simply as “needy folks,”Open Door Ministries considers each client and High Point community member’s human dignity first. In fact, that phrase could serve as Open Door Ministries’ working mantra.
Graham asked that Guilford County residents consider contributing to the group’s people focused work by donating time, items and finances to the group’s operations. “We can work with every single entity,” she said, from businesses to faith groups to individuals.
As for me, my partner and I are planning to schlep down to High Point very soon to share dinner at Open Door Ministries and hear some unexpected stories.
To learn more about contributing to Open Door Ministries’ community efforts, click here.