Bethesda Magazine: March-April 2021

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common ground Maryland. It’s also the first time the rapid rehousing program is trying the groupliving model. “In a lot of these cases, these are moms who have experienced trauma who may not have any familial support, may not have friends or may be coming out of a situation with an abuser and just need other folks around,” Wellington says. “In this case where we have these young moms, it is sort of like a college situation where you have these roommates you can kind of depend on. ‘Hey, can you watch my kid while I go on this job interview?’ Or, ‘I just need to do some laundry, maybe our kids can play together.’ ” The project is in many ways a direct result of the brief encounter at Emory Grove in 2015, when Hudson decided to step out of his comfort zone. “He’s very unassuming,” Warner says of Hudson. “He lives very much in his head. He’s deeply committed to community. He’s almost deceptive in that there’s a fire burning inside him that you would not perceive just by looking at him.” The idea for Emanuel House was born on Presidents’ Day in 2020. “Steve said to me that he was interested in helping families. So I began to have ideas about what could be done,” Warner says. He told Hudson about NCCF, where he’s served on the board of trustees for nine years. “Steve related to me at some point that he was interested in buying a house to house some of these folks. I said, ‘If that’s what the Lord is leading you to do, let me see if I can start putting it together to wrap some services around it.’ ” Hudson knew he didn’t want the project to exist in a vacuum. Bringing people together to make it work was vitally important to him. “When I decided that I wanted to do something like this, I knew that it would be a big failure if it was something that I tried to do on my own,” he says. “Different people have different passions, but for me, a passion is bringing Blacks and whites together to work together to develop these stronger relationships or friendship and trust.” Hudson became increasingly inter218

ested in issues of race and community after Martha died of colon cancer in 2014. Following 28 years of marriage, the loss had a profound and multilayered impact on him. “It certainly increased my ability to embrace happiness,” he says. “I’m very fortunate to have many things to be thankful for. The pain of her loss is alongside the happiness of what we could share—both of those things are carried together, and neither one is ever very far from the surface.” Susan Richardson was one of Martha’s closest friends, and has remained close to Steve.  “He’s always been a caring person, but I think he started to look for ways that he could use his time to minister to others,” the Rockville resident says. “You can talk about something and be sad about it, but Steve goes a step further and does something about it.”


Sheryl Brissett Chapman, first heard of Hudson’s plan, she was a bit baffled. “It seemed kind of strange to me,” she says. “Who does that? But nothing successful comes out of taking no risks. When we had our first meeting, I saw he was an extremely humble man with a deep heart who really wants to do good.” After Hudson purchased the house, an army of volunteers from three churches—Emory Grove, Shady Grove Presbyterian and Mill Creek United Methodist—banded together to renovate it. The home was in relatively good shape, but it needed a little TLC. About 20 volunteers and a few professional contractors repainted the walls, installed new laminate floors, fixed up the bathrooms and rebuilt the exterior decks. Workers created three separate units inside the house so that each resident would have a secure door leading to their private living space. The kitchen, main living room and children’s playroom are shared. Most of the indoor furniture was donated by church members and their friends, an effort Emory Grove member D’Mitra Lofton helped lead. “All of the

residents have children, so we wanted to make sure that the mothers felt comfortable with their kids there,” says Lofton, who lives in Gaithersburg. “You don’t want them to feel like it’s just a house. We wanted to make sure it was homely. It’s beautiful. ” The renovation budget was about $18,000. Rebuilding Together Montgomery County, a nonprofit that provides critical home repairs for the most vulnerable people in the community, contributed $10,000 of that. “This project was unique for us because during this time of COVID we had to stagger volunteers and clean in-between shifts,” says Maury Peterson, executive director of Rebuilding Together. “Usually we can toss 25 or 50 volunteers into a job site, but for this we had to rotate folks in. It was amazing, given COVID, that we could even do it. At the end of the day, it’s just great to know that those moms and kids had their Christmas there.” Warner and especially his wife have forged a relationship with one of the residents at Emanuel House—driving her places and helping her around the house—and they plan to organize a mentorship program among the three churches to complement NCCF’s programming. Hudson, who serves as the landlord, would like to get to know the tenants, and hopes that what he did will inspire others to invest in the community. Lofton happened to be at Emory Grove in 2015 when Hudson walked in. She still recalls a sense of nervousness in the room. “At the time, people were afraid, but I see the good in everybody— that’s what people tell me all the time,” she says. “I don’t have a spirit of fear. I didn’t fear that something was not right. Now that I’ve gotten to know him, the sense was correct. He was not there to harm us; he was there to help us. It was like he was an angel that came in.” n Mike Unger is a writer and editor who grew up in Montgomery County and lives in Baltimore.


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