By Leons Kabongo, Engagement Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. – Albert Einstein –

Two and a half years ago, we had the opportunity to introduce you to our featured volunteer of the month Mr. Kevin Waters. Since then, our lives as we know it took a drastic turn of events.

Today we are here to share with you the accomplishments of a man we hold dear in our hearts.

Mr. Waters found a place at OCP where he could occupy his mind, serve his community, and share the gifts he accumulated in his lifetime. Despite the world he lived in being challenging, he found a way to be happy and content.

Previously, you might have seen him sleeping over on Court Square between First Presbyterian church and the Harrisonburg City Public School building before church renovations were conducted. When I asked Mr. Waters why he was still sleeping outside, when we offered him opportunities for housing, he stopped, looked at me with his firm, sarcastic, but concise look, and told me that someone had to take care of Kurt (a fellow homeless man with many physical challenges). The comradery and grounding affection that our featured volunteer of the month exhibited by taking care of his best friend’s last days here on earth is the perfect showcase of Christ-like compassion. He stayed outside for two and half years to make sure that Mr. Kurt had a companion and someone to watch over him. Spider went above and beyond to make sure that Kurt did not spend his last hours alone.

When death struck closer (Kurt died of an aneurysm after a fall on a concrete sidewalk downtown), that was it for Mr. Waters. “Nobody wants to die alone,” he said softly, “that’s why I had to make sure that Kurt was alright.” Most of our community members suffer from abandonment and other adverse childhood experiences that solicit them to be reliant and trustworthy for one another. As Mr. Waters would say, “We are all we got.” During the pandemic, Our Community Place and New Community Project (Vine & Fig) found Mr. Water a place to live and moved him in, Mercy House used Rapid Rehousing funds to pay his rent while we awaited approval of his Section 8 voucher from the good people at the housing authority, which came through a few months later after a lot of work by the OCP case management team, and now the voucher began helps pay his rent. Because of this collaboration, Mr. Waters was able to be housed.

At first, it was hard for Mr. Waters to accept help. As he put it, “It took me a while to just let go.” Randi Hagi, OCP’s former Kitchen coordinator, taught him how to take photos, create an art gallery and sell his work. Timmy Joplin, OCP’s current kitchen coordinator, gave him the position of dessert coordinator in the kitchen. “Nobody just does that in an organization!” Mr. Waters exclaimed. But Timmy did. 

“I have been so upset over losing my wife, losing my house, and all material belongings because I let people come into my life,” said Mr. Waters. “Losing Kurt was the last straw for me. You see, our body has a funny way to remind us that we too deserve happiness, we deserve to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. Our body will rebuild itself, and a community is a basket where all the magic happens. There are many things I have had in my life, but this new feeling of calling a place home is a feeling I hope many of our people can also have. OCP gave me the space to rebuild the love for my fellow community members and myself and that’s something no one can put value to.”