Appalachian Dream Center Provides Housing to Homeless Man

By , February 27, 2004

Shortly after the Appalachian Dream Center opened its doors to relieve those suffering in abstract poverty throughout the region, Michael Hartwell, Director, noticed a dirty, elderly man watching from across the street. As Hartwell was drawn to this man, the man quickly disappeared from sight. For several days, Hartwell would see the man standing outside ADC but would never come in to see what was happening.
As Hartwell would soon discover, this man known in the community as “Chainsaw”, was a self-imposed hermit. He was a well-educated man but at some point in his life gave up on society and decided to live a solitary life with little or no contact from others. He lived in a small tent made from tin, cardboard and cloth and pitched it anywhere he could. He ate what he could forage from trashcans and dumpsters, mostly at night to avoid people. His clothes were little more than rags.

Chainsaw had no access to running water, which meant his personal hygiene was none existent. The coal dust that hangs in the air throughout the region eventually became imbedded into his skin making him appear ghostly. To most everyone, Chainsaw was despicable, his body odor was offensive, his appearance was undesirable and he did not like to be around people.

However, to Mike Hartwell, Chainsaw was a man that needed a friend. Gradually, Hartwell was able to approach Chainsaw and offered him food. Chainsaw took the food but would not enter ADC or eat it there. He refused housing. He refused rest room facilities. He refused everything offered him but Hartwell would not give up.

During the next several months, Hartwell would do what Chainsaw would allow and just keep loving and talking to him. Slowly as those spring and summer months became winter, Chainsaw began to accept other gifts from Hartwell and ADC. While Chainsaw still would not come in he did accept a blanket and some clean and weather appropriate clothing including a coat.

For almost one full year, Hartwell and Chainsaw played this carefully crafted game of give and take. Then one day during the hot meal program, Chainsaw walked in ADC and received his meal with all the others from the community. Hartwell sat down beside him and a wonderful friendship began to blossom.

Since that day, Chainsaw has become a valued member of ADC, not only accepting the services offered but also volunteering to serve. He would help Hartwell in and around ADC doing various odd jobs and giving back to help his friend. Chainsaw would not move into ADC because he wanted his own house, so he was content to live in his tent without adequate facilities.

A few weeks ago that all changed. Hartwell was telling the story of Chainsaw to a businessman in another part of the country. At the conclusion of their business, the man gave ADC a small trailer to house Chainsaw. When Hartwell brought the trailer back to ADC and told Chainsaw he had his own place to live, Chainsaw was excited and thrilled.

Once the trailer was set up behind ADC, Chainsaw moved in with his few belongings. Chainsaw has a place to live and care for his personal needs while living close to his friend, Michael Hartwell. When everyone else had given up, Michael Hartwell knew there was value in this man. Today, Chainsaw is a changed man because someone dared to care!

Dr. John D. Nichols, President, Operation Compassion, stated, “When Operation Compassion established the Appalachian Dream Center, no one knew the impact that would be made. Now, no one knows how far reaching that impact will become. Literally, the sky is the limit! Anything can be accomplished when people care enough to help one another.”

David Lorency, International Field Director, Operation Compassion, said, “Michael Hartwell is a different type of man. Mike doesn’t see failure, limitations or shortcomings. Instead, Mike sees opportunities! Opportunities to feed the hungry, opportunities to help the destitute, opportunities to do whatever is needed in someone’s life. Truly, Mike is an opportunistic man!”

Anyone interested in supporting financially, donating products or providing a corporate lead may contact:

Operation Compassion
Dr. John D. Nichols, President
David Lorency, International Field Director
Tim Burdashaw, Communications & Development

114 Stuart Road, NE Suite 370
Cleveland, TN 37312
423.728.3932 Office
423.728.3958 Fax

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