With open arms

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When times are tough, the community pulls together to help neighbors. While we may lack material riches, the area is abundant in hospitality and helping hands.

By The Gazette

It has been said by many that the Twin Counties are rich in hospitality.
In fact, it is commonly quoted by those who return to this area after traveling to other places, that they "have finally come home."
Looking back over events that have taken place over the past couple of months, it is easy to see why people feel this way. Not only do local businesses, organizations and residents welcome newcomers with open arms, but in the most dire situations, their doors swing open, too.
A recent article in The Gazette followed the growth of a local homeless shelter, the Galax Hope House of the Good Shepherd. This ministry prides itself in providing many forms of assistance to those in need.
It primarily offers shelter and assistance to men, but also reaches out to others in need by providing transportation, food, medical care, assistance in finding jobs and establishing contact with others who can help.
A good example of this was the shelter’s effort to help a family of nine who lost everything in a house fire in December 2012. Notices asking the public for donations went up all over, and right away people set to work digging through their basements and attics, offering up anything they could find.
And with the tendency for everyone to know everyone in our close-knit area, Hope House wasn’t the only one spreading the request. Posts flooded Facebook with lists of ways to contribute.
Hope House is not alone.
Rooftop of Virginia has several programs in place for low-income families of Galax, Carroll and Grayson, like home weatherization, indoor plumbing and housing rehabilitation. Willing Partners food bank serves thousands of local families, with the help of donations and volunteer effort.
To extend their efforts even more, these organizations work together as often as they can. For example, Hope House works with Rooftop, Cross Ministries, Willing Partners, Joy Ranch and the Soup Kitchen.
The area has proven itself a safe haven for many in need, especially in times of emergency.
At the end of January, a 24-hour rain storm made the water levels rise in different areas of the Twin Counties, driving several families out of their homes.  A shelter quickly opened overnight at the Galax Rec Center. Several residents from Givens and Shaw Streets, which are prone to flooding, were evacuated with the help of the Galax police and fire departments, Galax-Grayson EMS, and Baywood Search and Rescue.
Only a week before, officials across the counties were opening shelters after a snow storm that knocked out electricity for thousands of households. The Fries Fire Station, Rugby Fire and Rescue and the Independence Rescue Squad offered running water and food, while trucks continually made trips to bring those who couldn’t make it to the shelters on their own.
And these examples only encompass a few months.
It is often said that with larger groups comes a diffusion of responsibility, where help is less likely to come to those in need because everyone just assumes that someone else will take the lead.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Even as this area continues to expand and develop, it seems to be an unspoken rule that, when the chips are down, everyone does their part so that, at the end of the day, people have a safe place to sleep at night.