One Baby Step at a Time
By Pat Bradford
It is very gratifying to hand someone a new pair of socks and clean tennis shoes, shirt, jeans; to provide the ability to take a hot shower and a free haircut and see the transformation that takes place.
Begun 20 years ago to minister to the powerless and hungry, First Fruit Ministries is perhaps best known for its three-days-a-week food pantry.But every Thursday is "unsheltered day" for Wilmington's homeless -- those living in cars, tents, the woods, porches or on street corners.
The homeless are picked up in vans or walk, bike or take the city bus to the ministry's headquarters off Vance Street, opposite Wilmington's Brigade Boys & Girls Club, for hot showers, a change of clothes, and a visit with a doctor, mental health counselor or housing specialist. A volunteer barber gives haircuts. They can nap in safety, out of the weather, on comfortable couches. Hot, nutritious meals are served for lunch and dinner. All services are provided for free. There is a non-denominational worship service.
Within the building is the Dream Center, housing for women who are homeless, or at risk, or sex traffic or domestic violence victims. A few women with children are also housed, including one adorable infant currently in residence.
Every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon a team does street buffet-style hot meal feeding from a location off Market Street. Individual meals are also taken these days to the camps and street corners.
Clean sleeping bags, bedding and coats are much requested giveaways in the cooler, wet months.
Because the goal is to place everyone into housing, goods can be donated to set those households up.
Any donation -- cash, clothes, backpacks, soft luggage or household items -- is immediately recycled to the least of these.
Solitude and Swell
Cold-Water Winter Surfing at Wrightsville Beach
By Peter Viele
The smell of burning firewood wafts on the stiff northwest breeze. The gray, dark sky foretells ominous, snowy weather. It's 32 degrees, and not a soul dares to appear on these sands. The weather outside is nasty, but this might just be the best time to paddle out into the icy ocean.
To the uninitiated, this proposition seems ridiculous. But to the core constituency, winter surfing at Wrightsville Beach represents the pinnacle of the local surfing experience.
With wetsuit technology evolving exponentially in the last 15 years to increase flexibility and warmth, it can now actually feel as if you're wearing a heated, cozy sweatsuit out in the lineup, even during a rare ice storm.
As for swell, the combination of snowstorms in the Northeast, local regional low pressures, and predominately north to northwest winds can generate near perfect, well apportioned A-Frame shaped waves. The weather from February to April produces the largest waves, aside from the odd hurricane, which tends to send waves with too long of a period interval for this beach.
Surfline forecasters say the long-term outlook for this late winter and early spring is showing an elevated level for storm activity in the Northeast, which should provide ample opportunity for great waves in the coming weeks and months.
Of course, there are a few drawbacks. There's the potential for the dreaded "surfer's ear" if not wearing a hood and/or earplugs, a lack of lifeguard support, and even hypothermia without the appropriate wetsuit.
Still, to the properly prepared, weather-informed and hardiest of souls, late winter here promises solitude, free parking, and the best waves of the year with glimmers of a world-class break.