Volunteer brings a sense of community through reading

Volunteer brings a sense of community through reading at Minvilla Manor

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At Volunteer Ministry Center's Minvilla Manor, a group that calls themselves the Minvilla Literary Society meets every Thursday. At Volunteer Ministry Center's Minvilla Manor, a group that calls themselves the Minvilla Literary Society meets every Thursday.
"The only difference between me and a whole bunch of the folks that we have that are neighbors in the homeless community is they didn't have the bumpers," VMC volunteer Jerry Askew said. "The only difference between me and a whole bunch of the folks that we have that are neighbors in the homeless community is they didn't have the bumpers," VMC volunteer Jerry Askew said.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Many of us volunteer our time or donate our dollars to charities during the holidays, but are we willing to do that year round?

At Volunteer Ministry Center's Minvilla Manor, a group that calls themselves the Minvilla Literary Society meets every Thursday.

Sometimes they read Southern short stories. Other times it's poetry or biography or history.

But whatever the read, for those in this room, this weekly gathering is the closest thing to community that many have felt in a long time.

These men have all struggled through homelessness and are now slowly working their way back to stability at Minvilla Manor.

Helping them on their path is volunteer Jerry Askew.

"This is a ministry. This is part of the Volunteer Ministry Center. For me, it's a personal ministry. I think that God's love is a whole bunch like money. It doesn't do the job unless its circulated," said Jerry Askew, a VMC volunteer.

Askew is an executive in the medical field. In college, he played football. His background is in education and he has served on dozens of the boards of dozens of Knoxville nonprofits.

By any measure, his is a success story. 

But he, like many, had challenges growing up. Challenges that might've destroyed him, had it not been for mentors who, like bowling bumpers, kept him from the gutter.

"The only difference between me and a whole bunch of the folks that we have that are neighbors in the homeless community is they didn't have the bumpers," Askew said.

And so he does his part to be a bumper, one short story at a time. One built relationship at a time.

"And Winston Churchill said, 'If you were my wife, I would gladly drink it!'" Askew read outloud to laughter.

"God manifests God's self in the exchange of love and the best way to make that exchange possible is through relationships," he later reflected.

Askew is serious about building those relationships. He knows no matter how down you may be, there is always light somewhere.

"One thing they know is, it's never too late and that's one thing I've learned is it's never too late," he said.

"There are extraordinary men and women who could teach us a lesson if we were willing to listen."


If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at gpatterson@wate.com.

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