Judge Debra H. Goldstein is a retired U.S. Administrative Law Judge and accomplished author. She has been an active community volunteer in Birmingham for over 20 years and currently serves on the YWCA Board of Directors.
Creating a more caring community is the cornerstone of the YWCA Central Alabama’s vision statement. During this week’s unpredicted snow and ice storm, the YWCA has lived up to its vision. I know, because I was one of many embraced into the YWCA’s caring community.
For me, a Yankee used to driving on snow, I didn’t think much of the flakes falling as I left a downtown meeting. Two hours later, when my efforts to reach the highway failed because of accidents, clogged roads and an inability to sustain enough traction to get up hills without fishtailing, I decided I needed an alternative plan. I thought about working my way over to a hospital, because it would have power and food, but then I thought about the YWCA. Having been a volunteer and Board member for more than twenty years, I knew I could count on the YW for a warm place to sit with a cup of coffee while I waited for the traffic congestion to ease.
Hours passed and the roads became impassable. I was stuck for the night at the YW, but I wasn’t alone. Executive Senior Staff, child care workers and volunteers sacrificed the window of time they could have gone home to make sure every child in child care was safely picked up and that the heat and other amenities needed by the building’s full-time residents were maintained. Then there were the extras – displaced downtown Board members, volunteers knowledgeable about the YW and some who saw its lettered sign, like a teacher from Carver High, who came in desperate for shelter from the storm.
In the end, twenty-five of us sat down for a family style spaghetti dinner that we all agreed tasted better than any Italian dinner we ever had eaten. Dinner was followed by laughter, conversation, a movie, and the assignment of beds, couches, sleeping bags, and palettes on pillows. Clean t-shirts, toothpaste and toothbrushes made all of us presentable for breakfast and the beginning of another day of watching the television to know if we could safely leave. Most of us couldn’t, but it didn’t matter. We were part of a caring community.