Burge Graduate creates Eden Village community
For most, retirement is the professional’s end-goal, when life ceases being dictated by the clock. A time to travel, seek out new experiences, fulfill lifelong dreams, or enjoy family and friends. For Burge School of Nursing Graduate Linda Brown (Class of ’67) and her husband, Dr. David Brown, retirement was an opportunity to be of service to the less fortunate.
In 2010, the Browns and eight others from a local church grouped together to establish The Gathering Tree, a drop-in center, with the purpose of providing aid and support to the homeless in downtown Springfield. The idea was simple—provide free meals for people in need. They set up operations in a small shop, and before they knew it, they were feeding nearly 200 people nightly and space had become an issue. The Gathering Tree expanded to new locations, and with the help of community volunteers, were able to provide food, host activities, and develop relationships with the community homeless for five nights a week.
But the need wasn’t getting any better, and resources were finite. The Gathering Tree found itself without a home for a time before Rusty Worley and The Vineyard Church provided a solution and a place where people can take part in activities, enjoy computer access, and fill up on coffee.
Despite the remarkable strides made toward providing relief to the homeless community, the Browns remained focused on the dramatic need still present. They could lock up every night and go home, a luxury not afforded to the homeless men and women who had become their friends.
Thus, they created Eden Village—a community for the chronically disabled homeless, built on the foundation of compassion and love. A place for people who go to sleep each night not knowing where they will sleep tomorrow. A place of stability for those who have none. By providing a steady environment with housing, laundry facilities, on-site pantry, life-skill classes, a community center, and even recovery meetings, the residents were empowered to work toward the thing everyone wants—a better life.
After researching similar neighborhoods in other cities, the Browns hired Nate Schlueter to help them make Eden Village a reality. Nate had worked on a similar project in Austin, Texas, so he had the experience in addition to the necessary skills to make the process easier.
Linda’s work as a part-time real estate agent provided her the perfect opportunity to look for potential locations for Eden Village. One day, she stumbled upon a vacant mobile home park with ample potential, and Eden Village had found its home. On November 1, 2018, they closed the Gathering Tree drop in center to direct all resources and efforts towards Eden Village.
Eden Village has been a success so far, with the aid and collaboration of local government, real estate companies, design teams, and charity foundations. No such undertaking is simple—through capital campaigns, grants, events, and donations. At the August 28, 2018 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Eden Village welcomed its first resident, Tom Yarberry (above) to his new home, and the next chapter of his life.
Today, 31 houses make up the Eden Village community. A greenhouse has also been donated to the property and will be accompanied by a memorial garden. This garden will be dedicated to the memory of eleven individuals who sadly passed last year on the streets, but during their time here, provided the Browns with friendship and inspiration to make Eden Village a reality.
The micro homes are just one part of the overall need. Residents will need furnishings, among other basic everyday things, such as towels, silverware, and beds. The community response has been phenomenal, but there is no such thing as too much help. If you have a way to help or know an organization that could, please reach out to Eden Village or go to their website www.gatheringtree.org/eden-village for more information.
Eden Village welcomes its first resident at the ribbon cutting ceremony on August 28, 2018.