In a largely prosperous area such as Short Pump, homelessness is something you probably don’t associate with the community. However, it’s something that does exist, as one local family will tell you. One who, thanks to the generosity of a the Short Pump community, have their own Christmas miracle: a roof over their heads. Joseph […]
In a largely prosperous area such as Short Pump, homelessness is something you probably don’t associate with the community. However, it’s something that does exist, as one local family will tell you. One who, thanks to the generosity of a the Short Pump community, have their own Christmas miracle: a roof over their heads.
Joseph Ostling lost his job at a Roanoke furniture company late last year. He and his wife Michelle, unable to afford their rent, moved out of their home and bought an RV with their income tax return this spring. While en route to North Carolina to visit family, their vehicle’s transmission started to go out. The couple moved between area parking lots, receiving permission from Pastor Rick McDaniel and the staff at Richmond Community Church across from the Wyndham community on Nuckols Road, to park their RV on the side of the church’s lot for a limited amount of time.
When the Ostlings enrolled their children in Colonial Trail Elementary School on Pouncey Tract Road, a fellow parent at the school who attends Mount Vernon Baptist Church, just down the road from where the family had been staying, got the entire church involved.
The congregation, headed up by Pastor Donald Runion pooled about $1,300 to have the RV’s transmission repaired, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While their vehicle was in the shop, the Ostlings lived in a tent in the Mount Vernon parking lot for a time period spanning about a week.
That’s when Colonial Trail Elementary Principal Philip Cantone sprang into action.
“I first met [Michelle Ostling] when she registered her children at our school in August,” Cantone said. He put them in contact with Steve and Lynn Wazs, owners of a house behind the school on Pouncey Tract Road. The owners were not using the house and agreed to hand over the keys to give the Ostlings a home. They moved into the house in mid-November.
At that point, the community rallied around them, providing for their every need and filling their house with the essentials, and even a Christmas tree. ”The community (parents, teachers, PTA) all approached us,” Cantone continued. “Everyone was so generous and caring. We did not need to get the word out, we just made connections and worked out a support network, behind the scenes.”
Cantone says bedding, sofas, food, gift cards, a microwave, clothing and even a mailbox were donated by anonymous families and patrons. Colonial trail teachers paid for haircuts for the boys, school pictures and books from the school’s book fair.
Homelessness is indeed an issue, albeit a small one, in the Short Pump community. Says Cantone, “The economy is taking its toll on all segments of society. I know first hand that Mrs. Ostling fills backpacks with necessary items and leaves them for the other homeless in this area.”
Michelle Ostling, an artist, plans on giving back to the community by painting a large mural at Colonial Trail in order to leave a lasting impression of her gratitude to the Short Pump community, according to Cantone.