“I lived all of my life in North Carolina, but when my arm started turning blue in the winter, it was time to move South.
I was born with just one hand. I taught seventh grade, and when students asked what happened to my arm, I pretended to be surprised my hand wasn’t there. It was a running joke
I was a counselor for the last seven years of my career in a low socioeconomic community with one of the highest crime rates in the city. Kids told me their stories, looked at my arm, and knew I understood them. My missing hand helps me have a connection with people going through hard times.
Seeing the world was my dream, and I traveled to 34 countries. I went to Pakistan for a summer and saw a group of people called The Untouchables who are at the bottom of society. I paid attention and tried to understand, but there is nothing fair about the caste system. A friend once said, ‘Fair only comes around in October.’
The homeless are our Untouchables. Most of them have lost their families or have been rejected by the people around them. My whole life has been looking out for others, it was once students and now it is the homeless. My purpose is always serving and giving back.”
“I am from Pittsburgh, PA. My family on both sides worked in the steel mill. My great, great grandfather helped Andrew Carnegie start Carnegie Steel, which turned into U.S. Steel. Carnegie brought my grandfather over from Scotland and put him through college.
My dad came from the Black Forest of Germany. He was a steel worker and an alcoholic. We lived in the suburbs, but it was a troubled life dealing with my dad’s drinking. He couldn’t hold a job for long, so we moved around. Moving disrupted my learning, but I wasn’t very interested in school.
I dropped out of school in the 11th grade. A street preacher shared the gospel with me and turned my life around. I went to summer school, finished 12th grade, and graduated from a Bible college in Lakeland, Florida.
I was a pastor, but developing software applications and programming fed my family. I discovered south Alabama when I designed an association management system that was used by the Board of Realtors in Baldwin County.
About eight years ago, I was suicidal. My first wife had left me for someone else, and I had a lot of pain suppressed from my youth. Every time something bad happened, I moved on without dealing with it. I served on two church planting teams and looked fine on the outside. To be a Christian man was to be strong, it was Jesus and John Wayne. That left no room to address what was happening inside. But pain doesn’t disappear, it builds up like the layers of an onion, and I drank to get through.
I didn’t realize until I was in recovery that I had to face my pain. I learned how to reconcile and forgive.
Done with marriage, I was happy writing books in my minimalist home. Then I met Reba, and we both loved dancing and music. We married six years ago.
Reba is a Democrat, and I am an evangelical Republican, but we find common ground in loving people. Reba helps me see other sides. The more we talk things over, the more we agree.
We picked Mobile to start over together and moved here in 2019. COVID shut down our travel plans, so we explored our new community. Central Presbyterian Church had a jazz concert in their parking lot, and we went to dance. That led to volunteering at Central’s food pantry and leading their homeless outreach.
Reba and I believe in street-level ministry and jumped in. Soon after that, a Mobile City Councilman tried to push the homeless from their camps. It wasn’t right and there needs to be a solution in Mobile without going to that extreme. We realized help for homelessness comes at the grassroots from people who care, not the government.
Reba and I started Driftwood Housing to build micro houses in Mobile with the goal of getting people off the streets long term and providing the services, accountability and encouragement they need right there.
Driftwood Village will be 30 mini shotgun houses with front porches built by volunteer and student groups. Our first step is securing 10 acres, then the village will be built in four phases over four years. We already have sponsors for several houses.
We will also provide help for internal issues. I call us lost coins. A coin doesn’t know it is lost. When I was suicidal, I lost my way and needed someone to help me navigate back. If someone is hungry, angry, lonely or tired, we will meet them where they are and help them to better places. We will help them find their purpose.
The name Driftwood Housing came while Reba and I were walking on the beach and talking about the homeless. I picked up a piece of driftwood and said here’s our symbol. Driftwood is moved by the forces outside of itself until someone picks it up. We are called to lift up others around us.
In the meantime, someone generously offered a warehouse to provide shelter for the homeless on cold nights, and groups bring in hot meals. We will have a Thanksgiving Table family feast there on Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers will pick up our guests around the city and return them to where they bed down. Reba and I will deliver Thanksgiving meals to those who can’t come.
It’s amazing what we accomplish when we all get along. It’s like Kenny Chesneys song ‘Get Along’ tells us: paint a wall, learn to dance, and make a friend.
‘We ain’t perfect but we try. Get along while we can. Always give love the upper hand’.”
Reba and Dale’s story is a part of a series about the Weavers—people stitching our communities together, solving problems, and showing how to care for our neighbors. Send a message to Our Southern Souls to nominate a Weaver from your community to be featured on Souls.