First lady Ann McCrory lends a hand for Good Samaritan Inn lunch

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 06:36 PM

First lady Ann McCrory and the wives of some of the state’s top legislative leaders passed out plates and food for a meal at the Durham Rescue Mission’s Good Samaritan Inn on Thursday as part of the week’s inaugural activities.

The Good Samaritan Inn, on Knox Street in a former motel building visible from Interstate 85, is a women’s and children’s shelter run by the faith-based nonprofit Durham Rescue Mission. Shelter residents get meals, clothing, day care, vocational training, financial planning, biblical counsel and employment assistance.

McCrory helped pass out plates for lunch at the shelter on Thursday. The meal was held in lieu of a first lady’s luncheon that has been organized in the past by the Junior League of Raleigh, a women’s volunteerism group.

The league held luncheons for former Gov. Mike Easley’s two inaugurations, said Laura Brewer, a league member.

Both former Gov. Beverly Perdue and husband Robert Eaves declined, and so did Gov. Pat McCrory and Ann McCrory, Brewer said in an email.

The governor was sworn in Saturday, and is due to speak at another ceremony at noon this weekend, said Parks Griffin, chair of the inaugural ceremonies committee.

On Wednesday, McCrory was present for opening day of the N.C. General Assembly’s session.

This is the first time in more than 140 years that Republicans have controlled both houses of the state legislature as well as the governor’s mansion.

At the Good Samaritan Inn, Ann McCrory, 56, did not take questions, and she did not make any public remarks. She started the afternoon in a rocking chair in the shelter nursery reading “The Little Engine That Could” to a group of children.

McCrory’s sister, Kitty Hartung of Charlotte, sat on the floor with a second copy of the same book, showing pictures to the children as McCrory read.

When she finished, the children stood up to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” Residents of the shelter, including Elizabeth Newton, introduced themselves.

Newton said she came to the shelter in mid-November from Fayetteville, where she and her husband had been homeless, she said. Her husband had a drug addiction.

Newton said she’s been working to strengthen her relationship with God and learn to be a better wife at the mission.

“My main goal is to get everything I can out of the program, and to make sure I never become homeless again,” she said.

“I’ve had hard times too, not the same…but where I needed help,” McCrory said.

Newton said she thinks it’s “wonderful” that McCrory visited the shelter. She said McCrory is a “woman like everyone else, and is a guest here.”

“It shows she does care about people who are homeless,” she said.

McCrory stood in a line handing out plates before lunch, with wives of top state leaders passing out food beside her.

Susan Tillis, wife of Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, who was elected to a second term as speaker of the state House, along with Alice Forest, wife of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, also passed out food and sat with the women and shelter staff.

So did Yolanda Stith, wife of McCrory’s chief of staff and former Durham city councilman Thomas Stith III, along with Ann McCrory’s sister, Linda Sebastian.

Kathy Pope, wife of Art Pope, who was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory as the deputy budget director, was also present.

The food for the meal was donated by the Raleigh-based hotel and restaurant management company Summit Hospitality Group, Griffin said.

Ernie Mills, the CEO and founder of the Durham Rescue Mission, said that more than helping to pass out food, he wanted McCrory to sit down, eat and interact with the residents of the shelter.

 “I’m glad that with all that’s going on in her life right now, that she would think of others,” Mills said.

Rebekah Allred, an administrative assistant for the mission’s women’s and children’s division, sat next to McCrory during lunch. Allred said McCrory told them about herself, and also listed to their testimonies.

“She just seemed like she really did care,” she said.

Allred said she and her husband lost a child in a car accident, and she fell into addiction. They sold their home, and moved away, but “it slowly but surely got worse.”

It was Allred’s sister and her sister’s husband who brought her to the Durham Rescue Mission, she said. She and her husband, from whom she separated, but is now reunited, both came to the mission and went through the program together, she said.

They’re both employed. Allred said. She said she’ll be a full staff member in May. She also said she was asked to adopt a child, and they’re now raising her together.

“Once your heart changes, everything around you can’t help but change,” Allred said.