Finding recovery through volunteering

Published 12:35 am Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Clothes, television sets, dishes, fabric and toys.

This is not a Christmas wish list, but rather a list of items people donate to Martha’s Project in Belhaven.

On Mondays, the beige building — trimmed in white and with a red door and matching American flag waving out front — looks like an ordinary establishment.

But on Tuesdays, it comes to life when volunteers like Terri Bailey who are “just looking for conversation” find fellowship while helping local patrons look for household items.

Terri Bailey volunteers at Martha’s Project in Belhaven. “It’s a chance to meet people and do a lot of good,” she said. (Submitted Photo)

The nonprofit purchases food from the Food Bank of the Albemarle. That food is delivered on the third Tuesday of each month.

Volunteers unload the truck containing frozen foods, cheese, canned foods, pastas, boxed cereals and bread. They also pack boxes of food for those in need.

Bailey, a team leader at the nonprofit, moved to North Carolina from West Virginia after a car accident several years ago.

“I didn’t have a good future,” Bailey said.

A seamstress at the time, Bailey also was a mother of four.

“A woman on a cellphone rear-ended my car. I fell out of the car,” she said.

Bailey said she had 12 dresses to make for an upcoming wedding that week.

“Lucky for me, I had on my seat belt,” she added.

Bailey said she got up and went to a neighbor’s house to use the phone.

But after making the emergency call, “I fell to the floor in seizures,” she recalls.

As a result, the mother of four was disabled with two fused disks in her neck.

After undergoing surgery, she was “able to move (her) neck, look up in the sky and put her arms up” — things she couldn’t do before surgery.

In the recovery room, she could hear the surgeon’s voice but could not respond.

“I heard them (surgeons and staff),” Bailey said. “I heard them say what are we going to do, her children want to see her; they are anxious. It was scary hearing their voices and not being able to answer.”

She was admitted for surgery Nov. 9, 2004, released the following day and celebrated her birthday Nov. 11.

In 2005, she moved to Belhaven.

“It was a trial when I came here. At the time, my girls were in college,” she said. “God wanted me here, I’m different now — much more caring — and I look at things in a more positive way. Now, I’m blessed with great neighbors, great life. I loved thrift shops before, but this one I help organize — and it feels good.”

Bailey’s disability left her feeling isolated from people.

“I needed to be around people; people make me feel good. I was a shopper there (Martha’s Project), when the manager told me a position had come open. I gave it a try,” she said.

Since Bailey started volunteering six months ago, her outlook has improved, and Martha’s Project has become less a place to shop but more a place of refuge.

“I thought about it (volunteering) for a while. I would tell anyone thinking about it means you have a good heart. It feels good to give, stop thinking and just do it,” she said.

Bailey is looking forward to taking classes to prepare her to become a foster parent.