It was so nice to get away for a while a spend almost a week at the beach. There is nothing quite like the ocean, the seagulls flying low looking for a lucky handout, the ocean breeze, the sunrises (that I didn’t see) and the sunsets (that I did). For several days the weather was beautiful. Then the skies darkened. The winds and the waves became fierce. What was a girl to do? Go shopping, of course! It was a wonderful time. Now back to reality.

Earlier this year, “BC” (Before COVID), I was sitting in a meeting at Wesley Memorial UMC with fellow community advisors of Open Door Ministries. Chair Barbara Coughlin told us that Executive Director Steve Key would be retiring in June. “Oh no!” I thought. Key had served ODM for 31 years. First of all, he would be very difficult to replace; he couldn’t be replaced.

There is only one Steve Key! I know this from a personal point of view. I worked with him for several years before ODM had the Christmas Honor cards. I painted the High Point winter scenes for the ODM Christmas cards and prints. Steve was absolutely fabulous to work with! He was calm when I might panic. He was a rock when I was a limpy wimp! Upon hearing the word of his retirement, everyone agreed there must be a celebration. Then COVID came. It wouldn’t last long, would it?

Finally, the team of Barbara Coughlin and Nancy Laney could wait no longer. Steve Key must be celebrated! The guest list was minimal and limited to the board of directors and the community advisors. Everyone was required to wear masks and to follow COVID protocol. That’s why I could not attend. I had been exposed to someone who tested positive, so I was in self-quarantine.

Coughlin gave me the information. The celebration was held outside at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church.

ODM board chair Joe Blankenship was the first to speak. He was spot-on when he described Key’s manner as a “non-anxious presence in the midst of what is very, very challenging. He dealt with staff, clients, securing food and housing. He had the patience of Job, the persistence of Moses but didn’t quite make 40 years but there is still the opportunity to volunteer.”

Mayor Jay Wagner: “What ODM does for our community is vital. Our city would be much worse off if it were not for you and Open Door. On behalf of the city of High Point I would like to say ‘thank-you’ for your career and what you have done for High Point.”

Nancy Laney and Barbara Coughlin teamed up for their presentation. Laney said, “I have never seen anyone more devoted to take care of ‘the least of these.’ The ‘least of these’ to him were people who had come upon hard times for food and shelter. He did not question how they got there. All he cared is that he did the best to put them on a better path of life. Steve, I am just proud to be a friend of yours.”

Coughlin added: “Steve, you are admired, respected and loved! You are capable, caring, compassionate, kind, humble, understanding, gentle and unselfish!

“You grew services for homeless and hungry and hopeless in our community. The reputation of ODM spread so much that I heard people wanting to come to ODM from other cities to get help and be restored! In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, you left the executive director position quietly, without fanfare. We also thank your wife, Karen, who has been your support and help for all 31 years!”

With that, Steve was presented a “love offering” gift for his retirement. It put a big smile on his face and an even bigger one on Karen’s!

Now on to the next non-normal event.

In normal times more than 500 patrons attend the Family Service of the Piedmont’s Jamestown Pig Pickin’. This year’s Jamestown Pig Pickin’ was given the moniker of “Safe at Home,” quite apropos, given the circumstances and also in reference to the 17,000 clients dealing with domestic violence, child abuse, mental health and financial stability served by Family Service of the Piedmont.

The 2020 Pig Pickin’ became a drive-thru event for the sponsors and the hosts. I arrived (mask on) at Jamestown United Methodist Church and was greeted by honorary chairperson Kathy Rogers, former principal at Ragsdale High School. Next on the drive-thru was the tent where the all-important meal ticket and SWAG bag was distributed. That is where I found Jamestown Pig-Pickin’ Chair Mark Whitesell (we both can hardly wait for HPU basketball to begin!). In between I saw former chair (and former honorary chair too, I think) Curtis Collins, super Family Service supporter, working hard. Then rounding the corner Tara Daniel and Kathy Whitesell were offering cookies donated by Blossoms Florist & Bakery. I choose the colorful Birthday Cake cookie. It was delicious!

The drive thru was the piice de resistance, BBQ Joe’s chicken and pork dinner with the fixin’s. Volunteers handed out the prepared dinners as the cars drove by. I had to join in (besides I needed to give Joe a big virtual hug) so I parked my car and “helped” my friend Jody Susong, chief advancement officer for Family Service, hand out the dinners. I recognized quite a few people (even with their masks) as they picked up their dinners, including former honorary chair Kathy Dick, L’Tanya Bailey and Bob Brown (chairman of HPU Board of Trustees), Emily Ragsdale, Ken Smith, Ned Covington and Ann Taylor and Otis Harris (whose grandson Connor Harris is one of my competitors in the CIS 2021 Dancing with the High Point Stars).

As I exited the parking lot, Elizabeth Swaim was modeling the diamond earrings Simon Jewelers (Thank you, Gary and Sherri Simon!) donated for the raffle. They were beautiful, and the winners of those lovely earrings were Nate and Krista Headley.

Normal shall return someday. In the meantime, wear your mask and stay safe.