A Community That Gives

A Community That Gives

By Jessica Holman-Delgado

 

 

 

You may have heard of them. You may have seen them on the news. You may have even been the target of a surprise attack by a person in costume . So, who ARE these people? They call themselves the Ninja Joy Squad. Spreading joy in “ninja ways”, the NJS is a group of friends that like to “explode on people like a ‘love-bomb’ used to brighten someone’s day and make it more memorable”, says their leader, Trevor Allen. This dynamic team did just that when they hosted the Forge Goodness Sakes Fundraiser at The Forge Community Kitchen on May 21. The purpose of this event was to assist executive director of The Forge, Mary Anne Monteith, in coming up with some of the funds needed to close on the property located at 2801 S 1st.{{more}} Before the fundraiser, Monteith was about $30,000 away from closing on the building and the lot on which it lies. An exact figure is not available for what was raised during the fundraiser, as monies are still coming in from the silent auction and other contributions, and although it is nowhere near the $30,000 that is needed, many more people are now aware of the purpose of The Forge and what it is going to take to keep this gem in our community operational. Mary Anne has until the end of June to have the full amount, and after that she will only have to pay the monthly mortgage and taxes. When asked how she feels about the present circumstances, she replied: “I feel like I have to be obedient, and obedience means standing. I will stand like anyone who was ever commanded to stand; I will stand, whatever it takes. I do not claim to be superhuman; I have the same thoughts as any normal person, but my faith supersedes my humanity in that I have made a commitment to my Lord.” But Mary Anne is only one person, and no matter how strong and determined she may be, she needs more people to get involved if this dream of having a place in Abilene where hungry people can go to feed their tummies, and their souls, is going to remain a reality. The Forge is in desperate need of volunteers to make this operation run a bit more smoothly. Needed are people who are available to work a shift and stay for the entire duration of the shift, or even just commit to a few hours. Lack of consistency has made it pretty hard to run the business. Mary has had to deviate from her posted hours because, at times, she has been the only person there to run the entire restaurant by herself. Granted there have been some faithful volunteers, such as the Lovelace family that has been volunteering since December, and some others who come and go, but it just isn’t enough. Community service hours can be completed at The Forge, as it is a legal non-profit corporation as defined by Texas law, and since October 2010, 80 people have done community service hours within the castle walls. Mary Anne is currently awaiting eligibility for a 501 IRS tax exemption for religious/charitable organizations, which will enable The Forge to receive grants as well as the ability to write out receipts for tax-deductible charitable donations. Currently, volunteers are needed to contribute to that effort by helping with bookkeeping and sending out grant letters. With just a little bit of funding, a lot could get done. The restaurant is in need of some repairs and improvements that have yet been afforded. As for the food, well, Mary Anne loves to cook and she LOVES to see people eat good food. While she likes to place emphasis on her daily dinners featuring nutritious foods, some of Mary Anne’s specialties are her delicious homemade gourmet salad sandwiches-chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, ham salad, and homemade cooked pimento cheese-all from original recipes and made fresh all the time. Mary Anne also makes cakes and pies every day, the most popular dessert being her Key Lime Pie. All of the burgers served up at The Forge are made with ground sirloin, including the signature ‘Forge Burgers’, a favorite among children. Forge Burgers are dressed with mustard, banana peppers, onions, and provolone cheese, but the kids can have them however they want them. And you just can’t beat a 50¢ hot dog! Monteith hopes to appeal to people going to events, where they would normally spend $2 or $3 for a hot dog. “You can save a lot of money by getting them here. Get them to-go!” Take out orders are more common at The Forge than one might think, but hopefully business will pick up and more people will volunteer so the drive thru can get up and running for the summer. If all goes well, Mary Anne plans to roll out a new product for the drive thru: Snow Cups! Like a snow cone, only larger and served in a cup, Snow Cups will be available in an assortment of creative flavors. The cool treats made their debut at The Forge fundraiser, and I am sure they will stick around for a while, if business and volunteers permit. The common thread and the only thing that will be able to hold The Forge together, is giving: giving of time, of money, and love and support where it is needed. I would like to take a moment to reflect back on May 21 and recognize some of the exceptional people who gave of themselves in order to make the fundraiser a success. The first monetary contribution of the day came during the pancake breakfast in the form of a gentleman wielding a $25 donation. The man did not eat; he saw the story about the fundraiser in a local newspaper and simply stopped by to drop off a check. When he was introduced to Mary Anne, she stopped what she was doing, came from behind the counter and into the dining room to pray over him. A few employees from the City of Abilene took up a collection at work and dropped off $100 cash donation. All the way from Eastland, Nurse Dianna Scoville came to show her love and support for The Forge by giving $20 for two hot dogs. Meanwhile, Tuffy, her schnauzer, was busy getting fitted with a name tag and was deemed as an honorary ministry counselor for the day by Thomas Leavy, who has been volunteering at The Forge for the last 2½ months. Some of Abilene’s best performers donated their time and talent to make sure the atmosphere outside was fun for all the participants of the water balloon puppet attack, face painting, and other activities. Three special children, Amarie and Kade Knight and Cerise Long, did their part to raise awareness while selling bowling passes that were provided by Prime Time. Cerise, age 8 and a student at Taylor Elementary also gave an original painting entitled “Bird Chasing a Worm” to be sold in the silent auction. Days before, Cerise had overheard her father, local artist Byron Long, speaking with Trevor Allen about donating a piece of his artwork to the auction, and she decided she also wanted to paint something. Byron supplied the canvas and Cerise painted her heart out for the homelessness cause in Abilene, TX. The painting sold for $10, but its worth goes far beyond monetary value. Five people gave their lives to Christ on May 21 as a result of the love, generosity, and prayers circulating around The Forge that day. So, as you can see, it is not so much the amount of money given by any one person, but giving in itself that has a more long-term and positive impact on the people of our community. I don’t know about you, but all this talk of giving has left me with one question weighing on my own heart…What can I give?