Below is CEO Robert Greene Sands’ speech at the 04 November 2017 ribbon-cutting, celebrating the beginning of Rose Haven.
Thank you, Reverend Tomlinson,
Welcome all to our ribbon-cutting at Rose Haven, Pamlico Rose Institute for Sustainable Communities’ initial pilot project combining historical preservation and service to at-risk Veterans populations here in Washington, NC. I would like to introduce our Board of Directors, Tom Haines, Vice Chair, Alexis Davis, Secretary, Allison Greene-Sands, Treasurer and Board Members Brenda (BR) Rogers, Rich Prakopcyk, and Kelly Earp. I’d also very much like to introduce our all-volunteer staff, David Steckel, project engineer, Colleen Steckel, our social media guru, and Patty Franz, our event coordinator.
A ribbon-cutting usually signifies the last step has passed and the store is open for business. For us at Pamlico Rose we celebrate instead, a beginning, but most importantly we celebrate the community of volunteers who have begun to help us transform an old, reclusive, Dark Shadows kind of house into a home.
I am an anthropologist and I love to listen to and tell stories. I usually lecture and present on Pamlico Rose or in my other life as a language and culture expert for the DoD and have hours to work with. I can fit many stories into that time. Not today.
Let me tell you one story that I think is riveting. It is a story of an old house, a neighborhood, a growing legion of volunteers, a history, its rebirth, and a community. We are suckers for rebirth stories.
And it is a story yet to be finished as good stories never do really end; there are just sequels.
This house has served as a neighborhood anchor since it was built in 1892. I like to call it a blue-collar house. Its residents included the African-American women who lived here in the years after it was first built. One was the first owner of the house, and one was the mother of a mother-and-daughter team who ran a laundry service from this house in and around 1916. The house was also home to a family across four-decades, starting in the mid-1930s. The owner, J.W. Duke, also ran a blacksmith business out of the barn behind the house. The house also featured scores of folks from all walks of life who owned, lived, or boarded in it over its century-old existence.
We have gutted the entire inside in our efforts to bring this house back to life. We have seen how the house changed to meet the needs of those living in it; walls being put up and taken down, painted newspaper serving as wallpaper, additions to fit the reality of living, a barn burned and rebuilt, four layers of flooring, and a large kitchen that we know from family members was the focal point of day-to-day life. I imagine this house as comfortable and intimate to live in and face life’s uncertainty. Perfect for our mission.
This old house is the epitome of community and resilience.
Our use for this house banks on all its “community and resilience” coming through its old bones to once again help the neighborhood regain its sense of shared identity and to serve those who choose it as the last safe haven before re-integrating once again into the rest of their lives. For that, we call this house and program it will feature “Rose Haven”. My mother, who was the inspiration and benefactor for our Institute, was a quiet community activist, and the rose was her favorite flower.
Most Veterans leave their service effected in some way by their service. There are uniquely positive experiences, and comradery that stays with them the rest of their lives. There are other experiences that leave physical and emotional scars for many and will also be with them in some shape or form for the rest of their lives. These scars represent the trauma of their service, physical disabilities, PTSD, military sexual trauma, and others. These scars reveal themselves in substance abuse, depression, homelessness, joblessness, and increased suicide rates. These expressions are elevated in Veterans overall and for some populations of Veterans, the frequency and kinds of incidences are frightening.
In a year from now, 219 E. 3rd Street in Washington, NC will welcome 4-5 female Veterans to its repaired and painted wood siding, rehabilitated common area, three bedrooms and two baths, and an open kitchen with lower than average ceilings upstairs and down. Residents 100 years ago were shorter then and smaller. The wooden steps ascending to the second floor are steep yet not wide, but original to the house. The female veterans will traverse them like families at the turn of the 20th century did, carefully and determined. The old house will then be a new old house and already rehabilitated as its initial cadre of residents enter the front door and navigate those stairs for the first time, seeking to also complete the last stages of their own rehabilitation and recovery from substance abuse.
This house and program will offer a chance to help build social resilience skills for residents who already have done the hard work of treatment and initial sobriety. Imagine a continuum of recovery that will span a lifetime. The journey starts with treatment and for Vets, that means the VA. Success in treatment leads out of intensive therapy into next phases of recovery. The phases don’t get any easier, it is hard and necessary work to confront life’s challenges at each phase. One of those later phases involves re-integration back into a community.
The female Vets will choose Rose Haven to be a part of the community of sisters and to be a greater part of the community of Washington. They will come to be a part of an organization larger than themselves and to develop means to find sense and purpose in not just the next day but the next year and the years that follow. They will find energy in bringing to harvest the produce garden next door and solace and peace in the healing gardens they will maintain that offer them nature as a way to help heal. My mother’s spirit, the master gardener she was, will help breathe life into each tomato, each gardenia, and certainly each rose. The residents will bring life to a house to make it a home once again and they will be part of a journey of rehabilitation for the house, themselves and for the neighborhood. They will touch lives, and in turn will leave Rose Haven we hope with relationships, experiences and skills that will last them a lifetime.
I like to think of what we are doing here as dropping a stone in a glassy pond, and watching the ripples spread out to impact and influence many others and groups. Washington is not the final or only resting place of Rose Haven, exporting the program as a model and approach, will find purchase in other ponds, other historic districts and other communities.
Pamlico Rose and its supporters and workers that toil literally in the trenches in the end are all about helping knit a community together one Veteran, one rose, one garden, one skill, one stitch, one ripple at a time.
Healing others, we heal ourselves.