Linda Brown received the award from the National Realtors Association for her volunteer work and commitment to this community.
The Gathering Tree in downtown Springfield is a place of comfort, hope and encouragement. It’s a place to be accepted.
“We feed them a meal,” says Linda. “The meal is secondary, we actually get to know these people, get their stories. They come week after week, night after night, just get them off the streets and give them a place that they can hang out.”
Brown is a realtor with Carol Jones, but she's also a co-founder of the Gathering Tree. She and her husband live downtown and came up with an idea in 2010 to give back to the community.
“My husband and I live downtown so it was easy for us to find a venue or a place that we might open the doors have coffee and desserts and just see if we can get to know some of the homeless people,” she says. “And we started out with maybe 25 to 30 people and now we serve at least a 150 to 200 people in an evening.”
It's a non-profit volunteer-based charity, and gives the homeless a place to come off the streets in the early evening. But, Linda says businesses initially weren't so open about the idea.
“We are slowly being accepted more downtown because I think the retailers the business people realize that these people are not hanging out on the streets like they were before,” says Linda. “Now they have a place of their own to go to and we've been well received in that regard.”
Linda's long-term goal is to help those in need not just for an evening, but guide them on a path that will last a lifetime.
“We would like to see these people ongoing give them the aide they need to start their life over see them get their GED whatever it takes to get them on their feet,” she says. “Basically, it's just a place that we love these people let them know they are people just like us.”
The Gathering Tree is open every evening from 5 to 8, but it’s closed on Wednesdays.
Linda hopes to get more funding and volunteers, so the center can be open seven-days a week.
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