The work of Lydia’s House would not be possible without the generosity of its many volunteers, who help create and sustain this sacred place. In the coming months, we’d like to highlight a few of our regulars who have positively influenced our Lydia’s House community. This month, we feature Elizabeth Shanklin. She is an entrepreneur, a mother of two, and an artist who has put her gifts forward for the good of our community, while bringing her whole family along for the ride. We are forever grateful!
How and when did you first become involved with Lydia’s House?
My family and I moved to Cincinnati last summer from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Our neighborhood in Ft. Wayne was located very close to downtown. It was the first time, really in my life, that I had the chance to interact with the poor on a pretty regular basis. About 3 years ago, I befriended a woman named Carol who was often times homeless. She would show up often on our front porch and need food or medical attention, requiring me to take her to the ER on a few occasions. Sometimes she just wanted to stop over because I was someone who would let her just talk and listen to her stories. This friendship remained for about a year or so, and then she stopped coming by. I still think about Carol, and because of that friendship, I felt a seed planted in my heart for women like Carol who are without a home or family. All that to say, when we moved to Cincinnati I knew I wanted to plug in somehow/someway with a Women’s shelter or some organization that supported women who are struggling with housing, addictions, or other obstacles. We started showing up at Vineyard Central Church last fall, and that’s where I first heard about Lydia’s House. I quickly began asking what Lydia’s House was all about and knew right away it was my answer to getting involved!
How have your own gifts aligned with the needs of the house?
I met Mary Ellen last December and told her I’d be happy to volunteer with anything. She asked me if I’d be interested in creating all the table décor for the Feast of Lydia fundraiser in January. After that, I then started showing up at the house to start deep cleaning as the contractors were finishing up their final touches. After cleaning, I was ready to start really using my gifts in helping paint furniture for the dining room and living room and working together with another volunteer, Elizabeth Hatchett, to design the spaces downstairs.
Lydia’s House strives to be a place where entire families can volunteer. How have you found this to be true?
I have 2 daughters, Gracie (12) and Ellie (11), who have at various times come and helped out with childcare needs, cleaning, etc. It’s been an easy fit to bring my daughters and husband along too. We have the intention as soon as school starts up to be a regular meal angel as a family. It’s important for me to allow my girls the opportunity to serve at Lydia’s House and to understand the stories of the women and children who come to Lydia’s House over the next several years.
Does your own faith inform your desire to volunteer at Lydia’s House? If so, how?
Wow good question! I would say yes that my faith has nudged me to act on the seed that was planted a few years ago through my friendship with Carol. I learned to not be afraid of ‘the least of these’ and to start understanding that we all have a story to tell and that needs to be heard throughout life. I’m not sure if it’s just maturing as I grow older, but I have the desire to fill my time with things that are meaningful and that make a difference. A favorite verse of mine is Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
What is your deepest hope for the women and children who are or will be guests at Lydia’s House?
My hope for the women and children who stay at Lydia’s House is that they would feel a sense of peace at night after doing life as a community throughout the day. I had the opportunity to put together the bedding and sheets on the new beds shortly before the house dedication, and I prayed over the heads of the women and children that would lay down on those beds over the years. A prayer of peace and comfort as they fall asleep each night. I also hope that the women and children experience joy and love through the beauty of the various spaces in Lydia’s house. It was such a joy to paint the furniture and use lots of color throughout the house, and I hope that joy is felt for the women and children who come to live in those spaces as well.