Hope makes perseverance possible, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Maria Gamble and Donna Howard, the founders of Saved By Grace, a nonprofit that helps the local homeless population, find themselves constantly in awe at the reserves of strength and tenacity they witness in their clients.
“These people are survivors,” Howard said. “… They just continue. They continue moving forward, and they don’t ever seem to give up.”
Even the strongest, though, cannot keep going without some help. Since its founding in 2016, Saved By Grace has worked to meet the daily needs of the homeless who live outside in the woods, in cars and in motels. Saved By Grace provides food, clothes, furniture and whatever else a client needs.
A new initiative aims to take that assistance a step further and hopefully lift people out of homelessness permanently.
Saved By Grace plans to open its “Center of Hope” in May, where Howard and Gamble will provide a wide range of one-on-one services to help people in the job search process. They’ll help create résumé, offer job skill assessments, practice mock interviews and aid with applications.
The center, located at 6549 New Jesup Hwy. in Brunswick, will be open for several hours on two Saturdays a month, and appointments will be required.
The goal of the center is to help homeless individuals move from a survival-first lifestyle into steady work that will ultimately change their lives and offer them hope for a better future.
“For the last two and a half years, we’ve just been mainly about providing food, clothes, just the basic necessities to get people by,” Gamble said. “But going into this year and going forward, we actually want to be able to improve someone’s quality of life by helping them find employment.”
Saved By Grace unexpectedly found its first client for the Center of Hope several weeks before the center could open.
A man called the nonprofit seeking a place to stay and assistance finding a job. A high school dropout, he had little confidence in his ability to even apply for jobs. And while he didn’t feel he deserved any help, he nonetheless needed someone to guide him.
“All week he was saying, ‘There’s more people that need your help worse than me,’” Howard said. “He never felt like he personally deserved anything that we gave him.”
But from the moment Howard and Gamble met this man, they could plainly see that he would not give up.
“He asked me, ‘Where are you located?’” Howard said. “I gave him the address. That boy GPS’d it on his phone and was walking, and he was trying to get over here.”
The man planned to walk from a location on Hwy. 17 to Saved By Grace’s office on New Jesup Highway. When Howard realized he was trying to walk that great distance, she offered to pick him up and bring him to the office.
“I brought him here, and he just basically told me his story,” Howard said. “And one of the first things that grabbed my attention … He says, ‘I’m not the typical person that most agencies would help.’”
Howard spent a week driving the man around town, picking up job applications, shopping for clothes and the getting documents he needed to apply for jobs.
“He was literally in here every single day,” Howard said. “I think we totaled about 10 applications, between paper and online, that he did. Some of them I helped him do, because he didn’t comprehend a lot of it. But just every day, he was just pushing, pushing, pushing. And by Friday he was offered two jobs.”
He was grateful for their assistance, Howard said, but he never felt worthy of the helping hand.
“We wanted him to know that he mattered, no matter what it took,” Howard said.
Howard and Gamble meet clients almost every day who overcome challenge after challenge and never give up.
Despite their dire situations and the hardships they face, many hold onto their optimism, Gamble said, and wake up every day ready to face whatever struggle may come their way.
“I think, for a lot of our people, they all struggle but somehow they all try to make the best of their situation,” Gamble said.
Many who live in motels are committing a large portion of their paychecks to the weekly room bill. They’re cramming multiple family members and all their possessions into small spaces, walking miles to work sometimes because they do not have transportation and worrying every day if they’ll have enough money to get by.
Yet, they endure.
“They’re all inspiring,” Howard said. “We talk about all the time how if we had to endure the things that they have endured in their childhood or in their past, the things that they’ve done or the things that they’ve had to go through, or if we had to sleep under the stars without a roof over our head in the pouring rain, would we survive?”
Through their work, Howard and Gamble have heard many hard stories. They’ve helped a couple who struggled with mental health issues, severe childhood traumas, addiction and more who nonetheless kept smiling.
“They still continue to struggle, but they do what they have to do to survive,” Gamble said.
Saved By Grace helped a single mother who was evicted from local public housing and had to move into a motel room temporarily with her 1-year-old son.
“It was her birthday when she called, and she was crying on the phone, and she needed help,” Gamble said. “She needed a place to stay, so I called one of the motels out here.”
The woman had no car and relied on others to drive her to work. She received no support from her child’s father. But she had hope and a plan.
“She has a plan of action,” Gamble said. “When that tax refund comes in, she’s already looking for an apartment.”
Gamble and Howard look for that kind of drive in their clients. And in the new Center of Hope, they hope to offer practical support that can accompany clients’ goals to better their lives.
Center of Hope
Common threads run through the stories of many of Saved By Grace’s clients.
Many dropped out of high school. Few have family support in the area. And all fell on some bad luck and hard times.
“Part of their problem is they have no support systems here,” Gamble said. “They’re just kind of on their own, so we tend to be that support system for some of our people.”
Through the new Center of Hope, the nonprofit can also offer aid as clients strive for more stability and for solutions to their struggles.
Gamble and Howard will help clients through the whole job application process. The center offers computer access to fill out job applications, and Gamble and Howard will be able to provide a multitude of services.
Because most applications are offered only online, Gamble said many clients who are homeless or significantly low-income will struggle finding access to a computer.
“They don’t have laptops, but they’re all operating off of a cracked screen on their phone trying to fill out a job application,” Gamble said.
Saved By Grace will help clients prepare for interviews. The nonprofit will also help clients get the documentation and clothing they need before a job interview. The new program is mainly aimed at homeless individuals, many of whom live in local motels.
“We don’t know how long each person’s gong to take,” Gamble said. “Each person’s different.”
The center will also offer child care, to remove yet another hurtle many low-income and homeless people face during the job search process.
“We’ll have snacks, and we’ll have toys,” Howard said.
A transition from survival mode isn’t easy, though, and sometimes requires more time and assistance than all support agencies are able to give.
“Some of these people we’ve known for a couple of years,” Gamble said. “Well, sometimes it takes people a couple of years to say, ‘OK, you know what, this life really isn’t for me. I’m ready now to make a change.’”
But everyone deserves help, Howard said, and a chance to hope.
“We don’t want out people to give up, because their situation is not permanent,” Howard said. “Some of them may look at it as a permanent situation, but it’s not. It’s just a bump in the road, basically. We try to tell them that. This is just a part of your story.”
Those wishing to support Saved By Grace can call 912-217-0256, email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail donations to P.O. Box 13154, Jekyll Island 31527.
College of Coastal Georgia works year-round to be an inclusive campus for veteran students.
Work done by groups like VALOR, a student veterans organization, and support from the college leadership both play key roles in making the campus welcoming.
And once a year, the college hosts a ceremony to honor its veterans.
The college held the annual Military & Community Partner Appreciation Ceremony on Thursday to celebrate the service of faculty, staff and students as well as the work of community partners.
“We really believe that veterans add to this amazing tapestry of our campus and our students,” said Scott Williamson, interim vice president for advancement at the college. “… Diversity is defined in a lot of different ways, and we really feel that the diversity of our student body, including our veterans and those involved in the military, makes this a dynamic place that we can all join in.”
Ray Crouch, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and Navy fighter pilot, shared his own experience balancing the responsibilities of serving in the military with the importance of receiving a college education.
“I always thought of that degree as a key — a key that was going to open doors that you would not have available to you another way,” said Crouch, who serves as the president of Kings Bay’s chapter of the Military Officers Association of America.
Crouch has worked closely with the college for several years and previously served on the College of Coastal Georgia Foundation.
“My first introduction to VALOR was about 2015,” Crouch said. “Greg Aloia was the president here … He really was passionate about making this a veteran-friendly campus.”
Aloia asked Crouch to serve on the college’s foundation, which Crouch did for three years.
“He really wanted not only veterans in the school — he wanted veterans on the foundation,” Crouch said.
Aloia also helped set up a veterans’ lounge at the college, which continues to be offered today.
Dwayne Carson, the president of VALOR, thanked the many supporters at the college and in the community who have continued to serve student veterans. Carson will graduate this May, and he said the college has been a welcoming place throughout his time there.
“It’s kind of sad because I feel like everyone here has been my family since I’ve been here,” Carson said.
A 30-year-old St. Simons Island man remained in jail without bail Thursday, a day after he allegedly attacked a neighbor inside her residence in the St. Simons Mobile Home Park, according to a Glynn County Police report.
Troy Cochise Nichols was arrested Wednesday night and booked into the Glynn County Detention Center on charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, battery and simple battery, according to police and jail records. He is being held without bond on the aggravated assault and false imprisonment charges, jail records show.
According to the police report, Nichols allegedly talked his way into the resident of a well-known neighbor Wednesday evening, then grabbed her by the throat and attempted to kiss her, the report said. The woman told police he also pulled a knife from his pocket and held it to her throat.
He then walked back to his residence next door in the mobile home park. That is where police found Nichols after the victim called to report the incident at 7:01 p.m., according to the police report.
Nichols was booked into the county jail under a Kentucky address, but the woman described him to police as a “long-time friend/neighbor,” according to the report. She was outside on her porch when Nichols allegedly approached and started a conversation Wednesday evening, the report said.
“Nichols then went on to ask to speak to her inside her trailer,” the report said. She permitted him to come inside. At that point he allegedly asked her to secure her dog, which she did. The woman told police she watched Nichols check the lock on the dog’s cage while she talked online with a friend.
Afterward, Nichols allegedly grabbed by the throat as she sat in a chair and tried to kiss her. He also allegedly grabbed her mouth and then held the knife to her throat, the report said.
Then, he left, the report said. Police said Nichols agreed to step outside when asked by the responding officer, but he remained silent when questioned. Police photographed the woman’s “scratched throat” and “injured gum,” the report said.
Police could not locate a knife on Nichols’ possession. “Troy Nichols was not charged with Aggravated Assault with a deadly weapon due to the fact no knife was located nor were there any witnesses to the alleged offense,” the police report said.
Nichols also was issued a criminal trespass warrant for the woman’s residence.
A March 29 federal court order invaliding an executive order behind the Trump administration’s offshore energy plans led to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ordering an indefinite suspension of all those efforts Thursday.
Executive Order 13795 — issued by President Donald Trump on April 28, 2017 — attempted to revoke the Obama administration’s moves in January 2015 and December 2016 to indefinitely ban offshore energy exploration all non-leased areas of the North Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic planning areas, along with Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska.
According to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason, the Obama order took off the board all of the non-leased areas in federal waters from Maine to North Carolina, and part of the area off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, along with the areas off the entire northern coast of Alaska.
Former President Barack Obama used his authority under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Gleason, in her order, directly quotes that section of the law, which reads, “The President of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw disposition of any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.”
There is no provision in the law allowing for any following president to repeal that order at will.
Gleason notes in the order, “Plaintiffs maintain that this text only authorizes a president to withdraw lands from disposition; it does not authorize a president to revoke a prior withdrawal. Plaintiffs assert that under the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the authority to revoke a prior withdrawal was not delegated by this statute to the president and thus remains vested solely with Congress.”
She later concludes this is the proper reading of the law, holding that Section 5 of Executive Order 13795 “is unlawful and invalid,” and “hereby vacated.”
After a few weeks to ponder the ruling, Bernhardt announced the suspension of the offshore energy leasing process in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, ahead of possible appellate rulings.
“By the time the court rules, that may be discombobulating to our plan,” Bernhardt said.
Governors of states along the East Coast previously came out opposing offshore energy exploration off their coasts. April 2, the state House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing offshore energy exploration off the Georgia coast, which was supported by every member in every coastal county and every county that borders a coastal county.
An Interior spokesperson told The Hill after the WSJ story broke, “Given the recent court decision, the department is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the president.”
Environmental advocates received the news with guarded positivity. Alice Keyes, One Hundred Miles’ vice president of coastal conservation, said it’s necessary to keep up the momentum against the federal offshore leasing plans.
“This issue will not be going away during this administration,” Keyes said. “Since day one, President Trump has prioritized expanding offshore energy development, blind to the needs and best interest of our people.
“Consider the fact that right now we have a 5-year offshore leasing plan effective 2017-2022. Developing the current plan took years, millions of taxpayer dollars and involved hundreds of thousands of citizens, elected officials and organizations.”
She noted the H.R. 48 vote by the state House, opposition of Gov. Brian Kemp to drilling off the Georgia coast, and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s evolution of his position regarding Georgia coastal drilling thanks to opinions voiced by the state House and numerous Georgia municipalities.
“All of these developments are a testament to the power of our coastal community when we stand together — united with our East Coast brothers and sisters,” Keyes said.
David Kyler of Center for a Sustainable Coast said court decisions have been helpful, but offshore drilling can’t be justified in the public interest.
“Too little need, too much risk,” Kyler said. “The only beneficiaries — if there are any at all — might be those who profit from the export of U.S. oil, and that will depend on very tenuous demand, price and cost of spill cleanups.”
Kyler added that the price and availability of clean energy technology have become so favorable and conversion to it preferable, that fossil fuels are less attractive.