Owning a trophy shop, raising a family and rescuing dogs satisfied Marcy Hall. Then illness pushed her out of her comfort zone and reminded her that she had an expiration date.
"If I was going to die, I needed to make my mark in the world," she said.
Hall didn't want to talk about the illness she fell to in 2010. She doesn't want any special treatment; she got medicine and is back on her feet, she said.
Instead, the 54-year-old mother and grandmother wants to discuss the faith-based nonprofit organization she founded, East Ridge Cares 4 Kids. With no local or federal funding, it takes contributions from churches, corporations and individuals to supply diapers, food, shoes, books and clothes for 10 to 30 children a week living at Superior Creek Lodge.
For several families, the East Ridge hotel is the only housing they have.
Hall said her group has helped six families move into permanent housing in the past three years. Only one family returned to the hotel, she said.
The group also sends 15 boys and girls to two weeks of summer camp at Camp Lookout, the United Methodist Church-owned camp located in Rising Fawn, Ga.
When school starts, the children can count not only school uniforms, supplies and winter coats, but tutoring and a mentor that the group provides.
The goal is for the children to know that people love them and that God loves them, Hall said.
Joy Wills, her partner in providing the help, cries when she talks about the work they do.
"I want to bring them something happy," she said recently while passing out sunglasses and flip-flops to children from the back of Hall's truck.
Wills' first contact with East Ridge Cares 4 Kids was when she volunteered as a tutor nearly a year ago. After watching Hall visit the hotel and distribute a few diapers to parents, Wills also started buying diapers to give.
Helen Hixson, a 65-year-old grandmother, said Hall has been a life saver for her and her two granddaughters. Eight months ago, domestic violence forced them from their home with only the clothes on their backs. They didn't even have a mattress. Hall got one for them, along with coats and school uniforms.
"If it wasn't for Mrs. Marcy, we'd be in a world of hurt," said Hixson.
Crystal Darrty, a mother of three, said her children sit at the window watching for Hall to visit.
"They give you stuff, sandals and something to eat," said Darrty's son 8-year-old son Conner Wehunt.
Shantiana Birt, who's been staying at the hotel for a month with her mother, LaShanda Kellogg, walked barefoot across concrete and grass to Hall's truck, hoping to get flip-flops.
"We're getting away from the rough neighborhood," Kellogg said when asked why she lived in the hotel.
Hall started East Ridge Cares 4 Kids in 2011 after Barry Kidwell, pastor of Mustard Tree Ministries, prompted a discussion in her church, East Ridge United Methodist, about helping the homeless.
This year she has about 40 steady volunteers including nine board members from various churches and organizations.
"I have an expiration date," Hall said. "It means you need to do something, not just go to work and raise your family. What are you doing to help others? You've got someone to answer to when you die."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-6431.