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Grateful for the stress

I can’t believe it is already December, only a few more weeks left of 2019. I hope you all had Amazing Thanksgiving meals last week and enjoyed some downtime with family and friends. I love that now it is the official start of the holiday season. I was honored to be invited to a church member’s home for Thanksgiving to share a meal at a table with her family. I also had some much needed pet therapy from her two labs who were adorable and so sweet, I am 100% a dog person. My Housemates and I also had a great time planning, executing and eating at our  friends Thanksgiving on Friday that we did as a group meal just for the four of us to connect our  own little community, I made for the first time ever Crock-pot mac and cheese, which was received very well.  

Another Month of my placement has come and gone, each day brings a new challenge to me whether it is work related, getting to know my housemates just a little bit more and seeing each of our personalities come through more, or working alongside a new resident at Brooks-Howell Home on the weekends.  It also has been a challenging and emotional roller-coaster month. I am personally dealing with stress and anxiety about some recent life changes in my life that are causing me to not sleep well and worry and stress more about others things going on in my life. I am working through the feelings and the next steps I want to take to be better and do some long term growth that I have been just trying to ignore for some time.  My Housemates have been very supportive and caring during the last few weeks as well as my Site Coordinator Selena. She has been amazing at listening to my concerns and helping me work past all the feelings I have and seeing what resources are available to me while I am here in Asheville. I writing this to say that my life is not always great and perfect as it seems. I have been very good at hiding my feelings and taking care of myself last.  One thing we as a house focus on is self-care and setting goals for ourselves and helping to keep each other accountable for them and learning what ways can we help one another accomplish our goals no matter how small they may seem. We really truly are a community that supports each other with the highs and lows of our lives while we are living here in Asheville.     

One of my favorite things is attending worship on the weekends in the media room, filled with scripture, singing and a beautiful message.

Just this past weekend while I was attending the Sunday school class at Brooks- Howell, the sermon for the day was about being grateful. What are you Grateful for? Here is a small list of things I am grateful for this year.

I am Grateful for my family and friends

I am Grateful for my Young Adult Volunteer Year and this time of new growth

I am Grateful for the many new friends and memories I have made this year

I am Grateful for the Education I was able to receive and a degree

I am Grateful for mountains that surround me, the wind and the rain that can be rough, and yes even that white freshly fallen snow

Somethings to be grateful for that you don’t always think about, A smile, handshake, a simple hello on the street could be the one thing a person needs today , be grateful that you and any  individual have the power to change how one’s person day is going just by doing something so very small but it makes a difference.

Happy Holiday Season Everyone

Love Deanna


I still have not reached my goal to support my year here in Ashville. I still need to raise   $ 1,500 to reach my goal. Please if you feel call to support my time here in North Carolina donations can be made online at the link below, Make sure to put my name in the memo line so I can receive credit towards my account. Donations can also be mailed as well. The check need to be written out to Hand and feet of Asheville.

  Hands and Feet of Asheville

        789 Merrimon Avenue,

          Asheville, NC 28804 

In the Memo Line of the check put my name

Donating Online:

Want to support a specific volunteer’s fundraising goals?

Once you click on “Donate Now” you will have the option to list their name

Other ways to support me is through prayer, cards, packages and conversations and interacting with me on my blog. My address here in Asheville is:

Deanna McDonnell

Hands and Feet Volunteer

Brooks-Howell Home

266 Merrimon Avenue

Asheville NC 28801


One Month In

It has been one month since I left Michigan and flew to New Jersey and then went on my first Train ride with transfers from one state to another. I was very happy to be traveling in a group of amazing people.  I arrived at Stony Point, New York On the evening of August 19th after a long day of travel and meeting all the new Young Adult Volunteers on the way to what was going to be our home for the next week of orientation. We were greeted warmly at the door by Young Adult Volunteers Alumni and the Staff from the Presbyterian mission agency.  My one week at Stoney Point was all about preparing myself to spend 11 months away from home, getting to know the 53 other YAV’s who make up the 2019-2020 class, being trained in conflict management, racism, how to get along with roommates and learning about what it means to live simply and budget and Blogging. How to grow in our faith over the next year and being a member of an intentional community.

I took my first Subway ride through New York. My small group sent a whole day in a place called Washington Heights. We were to look around the neighborhood and see what was different about each of the areas as you moved closer to one end or the other end of the city and how were signs different , what businesses were in that area, what languages did we hear being spoken. It was a very eye opening experience and a little bit of a cultural sock.  We a group of 8 white people walking around an area and we could totally tell that we were outsiders. Some people in the area had lots of question about what we were doing there, like the owner of the sub shop were we stopped mid-day to have our lunch. Others ignored us or went down a different street just to avoid passing us.

Our week came to close with being commissioned at churches from the surrounding states.  My group the Ashville Young Adult Volunteers were picked up by the head pastor Rev. David Frost from Patterson Community Church and we had a nice drive through the mountains to the church in Patterson, New York which was an hour away from our orientation site. We were welcomed with open arms from the church. We were part of the sermon in introducing ourselves and sharing our personal stories of why we would want to take a year off from our young lives and go and serve in a new place. The elders of the church did the laying of the Hands over us to send us off . We now have become a part of the church for the year. The congregation reads our blogs, pray for us, and keep us a part of their community.  

Monday morning Bright and early my group was out the door at 6am to make it to the train station that would take us back into the city to catch the first flight from New Jersey to Washington D.C. I had a really cool time in D.C when boarding the plane that would take us to Asheville we actually got to go and walk up to the plane on the tarmac and climb the stairs to get inside the plane. I have never been able to do that I had only seen it down in movies. We arrived in Ashville on Monday August 26th in the afternoon and we were warmly greeted by a member of the Board of Directors for the Hands and Feet of Asheville program. We were then taken to Brooks-Howell Retirement community. We were introduced to our site coordinator Selena and we settled into our new rooms/ apartments and had a wonderful meal out at the local Pizza parlor in town that has a movie night regularly and an Arcade attached to it.  We then spent the next seven days in week two of orientation mode of learning all about Asheville, going on work placement site tours, getting our first stipend checks, finding the grocery store and going shopping as an apartment of 4 with very different tastes levels in food. We also had to learn the Bus system which for Deanna is a whole new ball game. The first two weeks was a learning process, but I have it now The Asheville program is in its second year of living at Brooks -Howell Center. It is a Methodist retirement community that is mostly made up of Deaconess and Missionaries. The Center started allowing men in the early 2000s live here. We have enjoyed the time we have spent with the residents learning about their stories and where they served in the field. We split our time between our work placement sites and Brooks-Howell.  On the weekends we go to Sunday school with the residents in the media room, help with crafts in the afternoon and just help out when we can with residents who need a little more help. We also spend time with the independent residents on Tuesdays when we host game nights.

I love my Work Placement site. I am the new Office Assistant for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. I work at the front desk and I help with clerical work, accepting home applications, answer phones and greet quests. I several amazing bosses and next year I will be able to help out on an Actual Build Site for a new family to receive there Habitat for Humanity Home.

The last moth has been a whirlwind. I have come to know so many new people who I consider friends. I have laughed, cried, been angry, depressed, sleep-deprived I have felt the homesickness, but the power of technology has helped with some of that getting to video chat with friends and my family.  I have also felt the love from people back home with messages and phone calls who I know always have my back. I am so excited to see what he Holy Spirit has planned for me this year and what gifts, talents, memories, experiences to make me a better person. I am ready able and charging forward and learning how to have a some more Orange type personality in my life.

Until my next blog my love to all of you


I would love to get Cards, Mail, Letters and small care-Packages. Below is my address for the Year.

Deanna McDonnell

Hands and Feet Volunteer

Brooks-Howell Home

266 Merrimon Avenue

Asheville NC 28801

If you feel led to do so, you can also still donate throughout the year to help me in Asheville, to cover living expenses.

You can donate online or by mailing a check made out to Hands and Feet of Asheville to 789 Merrimon Ave. Asheville, NC 28804

Anytime you do a donation make sure you put my name in the memo line so that it will be credited toward my account. There is also a space online to donate as well were you can put my name in.  

New Year

Two months into the New Year and a brand new decade. The end of 2019 was a great for me I was able to go home and see my mom, friends and church family for Christmas. I was able to spend some time in South Carolina with the Blaikie family who opened up their beautiful home to me as a travel stop between flying to Michigan and North Carolina. The Christmas Eve services at Allen Park Presbyterian church were beautiful this year, what made them more special was sharing that wonderful night with my mom, best friends and my niece. 

Being home with everyone was treat and it is what I need to get through the second half of my YAV year. What I was not prepared for was planning to say goodbyes in many different ways. The first was to a church member who passed about the day after Christmas. He was young and a very vibrant member of the church community. He was a camp Counselor, VacationBible School Crew leader, Thrive Band member and a Deacon and going to his visitation to pay my respects to his family the day before I left Michigan really hit me hard. It made me think about how we need to live each day to the best fullest we possibly can, because there is no guarantee of tomorrow. The second was to my mom and friends, saying I will see you next year, was a common phrase I had engrained in my head towards the end of my trip home. 

What I did not expect was to get very sick towards then end of my quick journey home, to the point where my mom and I are at urgent at 8am when they open, 6 hours before my flight back to North Carolina on a Monday before the new year is about to begin. It was the roughest flight I have ever been on and I was miserable. I spent the next week in my apartment in bed, with my roommates checking in on me to make I was still alive. I am doing better now, I still have a rough cough that refuses to leave my body, but I am working on kicking it out of my system. 

It has been an adjustment to getting back to life as a Household of 4 people the past month in Asheville. We are getting back in the swing of things with our work at our sites and working with the residents at Brooks-Howell. Together as a group we did our first community Trivia Night at a local place and we came in 5thplace, our team name is The Flancys.

This year instead of doing a New Year resolution, I am doing a word of the year. My word is self –care. I have never practiced self-care well doing my college years and I burnt myself out trying to do way too much at once. I am planning on making some life style changes this year and I have a great support system around me,  here in Asheville and at Home in Michigan. I have joined a gym for the rest of the time I am here in Asheville and I love it. The staff are amazing and everyone is accepting of one another no matter your skill level. I have been going to gym on Wednesday night after work and on the weekends at least once. I have learned when to rest, I have become great and to say no to doing to many activates at once.  I am also working on going back to therapy and counseling, as another in my well-being.

Below is my address for the Year: 

Deanna McDonnell

Hands and Feet Volunteer

Brooks-Howell Home

266 Merrimon Avenue

Asheville NC 28801

Thank you for your prayers for this year as it goes on. Thank you for the phone calls, video chats, handmade cards, just taking to my mom and asking how I am doing. I really appreciate it all. 

I have not yet reached my 4,000 fundraising goal yet for my year of service. I am getting close. Please donate if you feel called to do so. Every donation helps support my year in Asheville. Make sure to put my name in the memo line so I can receive credit toward my goal.

Pumpkins and a Phone

I cannot believe it is almost the end of October and that I have officially been in Asheville for over two months now. It is starting to finally feel like fall, the summer heat has gone and now we have the changing of colors on trees and lots of rain. I am reminded of the verse we had at my church camp for the summer camping season of 2007, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 “for everything there is a Season and a time for every purpose under heaven”. This is really what the Young Adult Volunteer experience is really all about. It is about being in a season of discerning learning and figuring what is your purpose. What is your purpose right now, next week, a month from now or even a whole year from now and to each person it is going to be different.

My purpose right now is to be an engaged member of several different types of communities while I am here in Ashville. I have my work placement site at Habitat, Brooks-Howell Home, Grace Covenant Church, Circle of Mercy Church, the other YAV’s in my apartment, and finally Asheville, North Carolina as a whole. Each one can stand together on its own and be its own little world. Some communities for me I have people that overlap into several places and I may see them in more than one place, even several times throughout my week. The places I have been to have now become part of my family for the next year and long after I am gone. In this post I want to talk about two different experiences I have had in my different communities so far. It’s a cold and wet morning I get to my site and unlock the doors, turn on the lights and go to my desk. I set down my bags and turn on my computer. I smile, take a breath from walking to the building from the bus stop and for the next 30 minutes or so I say ‘’Good Morning” to my coworkers as they enter the front and back doors to the building going to their respective offices to begin another day of work. I wait for the phone that sits on my desk to ring. Once it sounds, I pick it up not knowing who is going to be on the other end. The next 20 minutes I am invited into the world of a complete stranger, who I may never meet in person. It was cold rainy Thursday morning just at 10 am when I took this call. I answer with “Asheville Habitat, how can I help you today?’ in my most cheerful phone voice. On the end of the line was a woman who wanted to know if Habitat could help her with her home and some repairs that needed to be done on a fixed income. I filled her in on the Habitat Home Repair Program and asked if she would like me to fill out a blue contact card with her over the phone. I asked her routine questions -name, phone, address, what type of work was she needing assistance with, etc. She tells me that she is on SSI and has no were else to turn to and hopes that we can help her fix her home so she can stay in it longer. She asks me what my name is and how long I have worked with Habitat. I told her 9 weeks and that I came from Michigan. We talked for a few more minutes as I am filling out her contact card. The other phone lines light up with other incoming calls that are quickly taken by other staff and I have notes dropped off at my desk for projects to do once I am off the phone. We chat a little bit more about the difference in Michigan weather and North Carolina and she tells me how beautiful Asheville is during any season. We wrap up our call and I tell her to have a good weekend and that I would pass her card off to the next step in line for the Repair Program. I know you’re asking Yourself, “but Deanna what was your purpose in taking a 20 minute phone call when you had so many other things that were starting to pile up”. My purpose was to just listen and let this women share her story. I could be the one person she speaks to today and has a meaningful conversation with. I will admit I have been jealous of the relationships/community my other roommates in Ashville have been making at their sites getting to share meals with the people they are serving, having meaningful conversations on a daily basis and seeing the same people week after week or even from day to day in person and getting to put a name to a face. I am building community even if it is not face to face. I still have made some sort of difference in someone’s life even if it did through a little black phone that sits on a desk.

This past weekend I was helping out with the Friday afternoon activity at Brooks Howell, pumpkin carving and decorating in anticipation for Halloween which is coming up very soon. We have one resident who never talks but she often comes to activities and sits and watches before drifting off to sleep. She is one of my favorite residents at the home, because she talks with her eyes, that are so sweet and round and still so full of life. She will track and follow you for a little while and can sometimes nod when asked a question. She is always in her wheelchair and has a blanket on her. When doing the activity she was wheeled up to next to me and I just started taking to her telling her that I was going to decorate my pumpkin with colorful crepe paper instead of cutting into it. I had all the rolls and just started naming all the colors and holding them up for her to see. I explained that I was going to cut them into squares and make a patchwork quilt on my pumpkin. I told her about the weather while I cut my many squares of thin paper. I then started gluing on my squares of paper and making a design. I then started asking what she thought of this yellow square going next to a red square that was by a blue square and if they would look nice together in a row. She just looked at me with those beautiful eyes and did a little nod. After a couple more minutes she was sleeping sweetly next to me with her oxygen humming ever so faintly behind her wheelchair. The next 30 minutes I worked on my pumpkin but always looking over at her to make sure she was okay and taking to myself about the color pattern on my pumpkin. During clean up I said goodbye to her and I would see her next week’s activity as the CNA wheeled her away to get ready for dinner. My purpose on this day was just to make a sweet older lady feel included; that someone cared about her and that even though she can’t talk she is still a beloved Child of God. I never thought that having a mostly one sided conversation would bring me so much joy and happiness. Just me talking about which color of paper I should put next on this orange pumpkin. Sometimes it is the little things in life that make you think about what is your purpose in life.

My challenge to all of you back home, fellow Young Adult Volunteers, and anyone who reads this blog. Think about this question and do some self-reflection.

What is your Purpose?

Thank you for your prayers for this year as it goes on. Thank you for the phone calls and video chats.

I have not yet reached my 4,000 fundraising goal yet for my year of service. Please donate if you feel called to do so. Every donation helps support my year in Asheville. My roommates and I are working very hard for each one of us to hit our individual goals before Christmas time. Make sure to put my name in the memo line so I can receive credit toward my goal

Deanna McDonnell