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Freedom House

March 11, 2013

Virginia – Tuesday, March 5

I looked into donation possibilities for Richmond since I ended up there, and came across Freedom House, a comprehensive program that has a soup kitchen, a community shelter for both men and women, a halfway house type place, and even a junior board to get young people involved in their community. Their slogan is Food, Shelter and the Power to Change. I liked what I read on the website, and tried calling to see what supplies the soup kitchen might need, but just caught the answering machine. Freedom House wasn’t far from where I was staying, so I just drove over to make a donation for the soup kitchen part of their program. Right after I got there, Christy, the director, returned and she was the one I had tried calling. I explained what I was doing and she was kind enough to take the time to tell me more about the programs and show me all around the facility. Freedom House has been helping people for 25 years, and their soup kitchen, which is at a different location from the building with the shelter and administrative offices, has served over 48,000 meals to the homeless during those years. Then she took me upstairs to the shelter part of the facility, and it’s a nice place for the 36 people who get to stay there. This is a place for people who are serious about making a change in their lives – there are a lot of things they need to comply with, and a lot of accountability on their part to keep moving forward, and they all have a case manager. The sleeping areas are divided into 24 beds for men, and 12 for women, and some of the beds are available for veterans. Their meals are provided, but they must do the cleanup, in addition to their classes and/or jobs. They have a high success rate with people in the shelter being able to get back on their feet and support themselves. In the end, I put my donation toward the shelter instead of the soup kitchen, since I was able to actually see that and hear more about it.

Then I drove a little south of Richmond to Petersburg National Battlefield, another National Park site, and got another dose of history. The siege of Petersburg was a 9 month ordeal – the longest military event of the Civil War. I watched a good video about it, and enjoyed the exhibits in the visitor center, then set out to walk on the auto tour route. I really enjoy walking in the national battlefields – this is the 4th or 5th one I’ve been to, and I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much! The history is interesting, and the land is usually rolling hills, to provide some cover during battle, and it’s very pretty. The auto routes are typically one way with low speed limits, and they’re designed with a pedestrian lane, so it’s easy for anyone to walk as much or as little as they want. Tula and I set out and walked a couple miles and then it started to sprinkle. We turned around and didn’t get too wet, because the sprinkles came and went, but I began to keep an eye on the increasingly gray sky. I drove a little farther on and walked another couple miles. I came across a section of a trail that was closed because it was an eagle protection zone for nesting eagles – with a $350,000 fine for anyone who trespasses! A lot of the trenches and battle lines are very visible – stretching on and on, and thinking about all the shoveling and digging and what slow work it must have been, especially in bad weather, really makes it seem like a miserable event. Back then, the Union and Confederate soldiers were in close proximity to each other, and the siege was hard on both sides. Eventually some mine-worker Northern soldiers tunneled about 500 yards to a spot under the Southern fort, and packed the end of the tunnel with gunpowder and blew the whole thing up – the crater is still sort of visible. I got Tula out for a last short walk as the rain began, but then I enjoyed another mile of walking under my umbrella – I thought it was very pretty to listen to the rain on the umbrella while out walking in the hills on a gray misty late afternoon.

The rain and wind began to pick up, and I headed back to Richmond – the news was full of all the incoming snow, but I’m down near the southeast corner of Virginia, and the snow is not expected to come quite this far.
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