The remarkable story of an angel in Mississippi.
As many of you know Smith Nature Friendly Farms is committed to giving back to the community we serve and to nature friendly charities. Most recently, we have been working with St. Andrews Mission as a volunteer and a voice to help them garner support in the community. The wonderful people at St. Andrew’s Mission took me to meet another charitable organization which has impacted me and I wanted to share.
The story here is incredible.
An Introduction to Sarah and Greater Hope Ministry.
On this fall Friday, I am taken to an old part of McComb, Mississippi, to a run down concrete block building.
There are makeshift temporary doors. They are essentially plywood on hinges.
Once you step inside you are looking at an open ceiling and a tin roof. Looking at the tin roof you can see the speckles of sun through it. Nothing closes off the outside from the edges of the roof either. The building is in various stages of construction but the amount of work that needs to be done, feels overwhelming.
Two men are hammering some wood onto the ceiling beams and putting up sheets of plywood. Unfortunately,with the tin roof having holes, moisture is just going to make its way back into the building. More supplies are desperately needed.
What I am getting a look at, is the beginning of a vision of Sarah Conerly (pictured above). An amazing woman, who has a dream and is giving everything she has to see it to fruition. Sarah is not your average woman. She is a giver through and through. A retired nurse, with bad knees, who could be sitting on her porch drinking sweet tea. But no, instead she is trying to build a facility to fill a void in the community of McComb, for the homeless. Sarah is building a homeless shelter from scratch, in her retirement years.
For Sarah, housing the homeless is not new. In fact she has been housing the homeless in her personal residence for some time. But as she gets older her kids became increasingly worried about her safety at home. Knowing they could not stop her desire to help those in need, they had to find other solutions for their mom. This resulted in her kids getting her a building to turn into a shelter.
The building had to come cheap, there are no government sponsors. Just local donations and Sarah’s personal savings and credit cards. Of which she has spent and maxed. She is 100% invested.
Before the project even started she had to pay $1200 in property back taxes. Part of the agreement of getting to use the run down building.
As she began the process of making the space habitable, need showed up at the door. She was not ready yet to bring people into the shelter, but turning people away is not in Sara’s nature. A call out to the community got some beds and bedding donated. Four people were given a place off the streets to sleep that first night, thanks to Sarah and her donators.
Today, when I am there I get to meet Sarah for the first time. I can instantly tell her incredible sweetness. She is warm and welcoming. There is a meal planned for tomorrow for the residents and I was quickly invited. She doesn’t know me, but to Sarah all she knows, is how to let people in.
As we tour the sleeping area she tells us that she has had 8 people come stay last night. This is more than expected at this time, and already the building space she had planned for other uses, are now being looked at for expanding the number of beds.
We stop at one bed that has a residents belongings there. There is tinfoil on the floor. Her immediate concern is, is it a crack pipe? Drug use is not tolerated and residents will be asked to leave. Now imagine your grandma dealing with men, with crack pipes. This is no ordinary grandma. The tin foil reveals a toothbrush, everyone is relieved. It sucks to assume such a thing in the moment, but it is a reality as to why someone can be homeless.
There are three men in the shelter as we walk through. They spent the night. They were very friendly. Some of the men are black and some are white. Normally, I don’t care to address a person's skin color as it shouldn't matter. But I think it is important to highlight that homelessness has no boundaries to prevent any misconceptions about who is homeless. Age, race, religion, male or female, sexual orientation, does not matter. Homelessness can impact anyone. At this time, Sarah has found that the need is there for men, but she has helped women and children in the past.
She tells us she took in a new resident last night. One that has been served meals before at St.Andrew’s Mission. He has been living in a vehicle. He has been denied disability but legitimately has health issues due to diabetes. The cost of diabetes medication is certainly not affordable, leaving good people like him in a bind. They can’t work, they are not well. They don’t have money to get well. You can’t adopt a healthy lifestyle to manage your illness when you rely on a shelter for meals. Everyone really has a soft spot for him. He is an example of one of the many people who fall through the many cracks of society.
Sarah takes us around the rest of the warehouse. The last thing I see is a large bathroom area. One bathroom. Right now only a toilet sits functioning. A donation from Lowe’s. There are 8 men and Sarah here. To add to it, the bathroom has no doors yet. Just curtains.
A donated dryer sits in the bathroom and awaits a washer to be donated to work with. A gift from a kind nearby resident who could have easily sold it.
Everywhere you turn drywall, flooring, insulation and general construction needs to be done. You won't come in each day to find 10 tradesmen hammering away at the project either. She has sporadic volunteer help with limited supplies and not enough expert trades people or money.
I look at this all and I feel overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed by the work that needs to be done and by a woman who is a modern day Mother Teresa.
Ask Sarah what she thinks and she will tell you two things.
"Work hard and you will always have work. Give and you will always have something to give." She is remarkable. Her story is remarkable.
Now that you know her story, I have to ask for your help. What I have seen is a level of work that is far beyond one woman and I am hoping many people will come together to help her.
How you can help.
1. Donate money -
C/O Sarah Conerly
Greater Hope Ministry
1163 Johnny Forest Road
2. Tradespeople needed -
3. Volunteers needed -
4. Donate building materials -
We understand not everyone has the means to donate. Please consider using your social media superpowers and becoming one of her sharers. Her story needs to get out there in hopes it reaches someone who has the means (or multiple someones) to help.
You can like her Facebook page by clicking here and liking her page.
You can share this story either by visiting her Facebook page or by sharing using the following link: https://bit.ly/2QRvHhf
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this. Please consider supporting this amazing woman.
As always from us at Smith’s Nature Friendly Farm, be kind, be nature friendly.