Rachel and Hannah Castro barely had time to unpack their bags after arriving in Dalton before rushing over to City of Refuge to help serve supper to those who are homeless and down on their luck.
The two are managers of the Liberty University Flames, from Lynchburg, Va., one of 24 teams in Dalton this weekend in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association’s (NCWA) National Duals.
They and some of the wrestlers were taking part in the NCWA’s 6:12 project where they give back to the community by taking part in service programs, a project they Castros say is in keeping with Liberty University’s Christian mission.
“We’ve done things like this before. It’s always a really good experience. We need to reach out to other people and help them when we can,” Rachel said.
“It makes you think about all the blessings you have and more thankful for them,” she said.
City of Refuge Director Pamela Cudd said she was delighted when tournament organizers reached out to the mission.
“Being the mother of a former wrestler, I was so thrilled to hear they wanted to come over here and help out,” she said. “I was also excited to learn that they wanted to help us out by conducting a food drive, as well. Anyone who goes to the tournament and brings a non-perishable food item, or more than one, gets $5 off their ticket.”
Cudd said she hopes that the wrestlers and managers learn more about Dalton and about the work being done by ministries such as City of Refuge.
“Hopefully, they will be able to carry what they learn back to their own hometowns and get involved in shelters there,” she said.
Middle Tennessee State University wrestlers Everett Colbert and Robert Anderson said this wasn’t the first time they had volunteered at a homeless shelter.
“It is a good feeling to know that you are helping someone else out,” Anderson said.
City of Refuge serves meals three times a week: Monday evening, Thursday evening and Sunday morning.
Community churches take turns preparing and serving the meals.
On Thursday night, members of the Mount Rachel Baptist Church were making dinner.
“We do a meal once a month. We buy the food and bring it here and cook it, then we serve it to all the people. I love it. My whole family is involved, and it’s just a blessing to be able to serve people who are less fortunate,” said Teresa Cole.
Cole said she was glad to see the wrestlers coming in to help out.
“A lot of people don’t realize that there are food banks and homeless ministries around town, so it’s great that they are drawing attention to this and supporting the food bank. A lot of people might want to volunteer, but they just don’t know where to go. This is a great opportunity for City of Refuge,” she said.
While they were waiting to be served, some of the people were getting free hair cuts from Jennifer Nicholson.
“I’ve been coming here about three or four months. I wanted to be able to help other people out. It had been on my heart that I needed to do something, and this is something that I can give to others,” said Nicholson, who is a professional cosmetologist.
Nicholson said that getting a hair cut is something that most of us take for granted, but for the homeless it’s a luxury.
Free haircuts are just one of them many services provided by City of Refuge.
“We have a free medical clinic. We have transitional housing. We have educational classes, free clothing, a food bank. We are here with something going on at all times. Among all the areas, we serve about 5,500 people a month,” said Cudd.
DUALS IN DALTON
The National Collegiate Wrestling Association’s National Duals are in town for the second straight year. The 24-team field begins competition to crown a national champion at 2 p.m. today at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center. Three rounds of duals will be held today, with wrestling resuming at 9 a.m. Saturday. The championship and other duals to determine final places are scheduled for 7 p.m. that day. In addition, for the first time a high school duals tournament will be held in conjunction with the college event, with those wrestlers competing all day Saturday. A two-day pass to the tournament is $20 for adults, $10 for students and free to those ages 9 and younger if accompanied by an adult. A $5 discount will be given to each person who brings a non-perishable food item for donation to City of Refuge-Dalton’s food bank.