By Kelly Twedell
Cape Fear Valley Health’s Dr. Scott Cameron, a Neonatologist (NICU physician) is the one
with the vision. In 2010, during a medical mission trip to Africa, Dr. Cameron became gravely ill and needed emergency abdominal surgery. Avery Cameron, Dr. Cameron’s wife who was with him in Africa, marveled that at the very place he went to serve, he was in the hands of an American physician who was an expert in the surgery that Dr. Cameron needed. The moment when doctor became patient was pivotal in Dr. Cameron’s medical experience, but also in his own faith. It was the catalyst that led to Dr. Cameron attending Duke’s Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, to become a pastor.
“One thing that sustained me during my time at seminary was Friendship House,” Dr. Cameron said. “It was a serendipitous thing. It turned out to be very transformative.”
Friendship House originally got its start nine years ago on a theological seminary campus in Holland, Michigan. The sustainable housing model offers secure, affordable and community-oriented housing enabling young adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to live in community with seminary students.
Dr. Cameron’s time over the last three years, he said, opened his eyes to what unconditional love looks like. His roommate at Friendship House Durham, Alex, was one of the folks who worked shelving books in the Divinity School Library. Dr. Cameron and Alex bonded and joked while riding the bus home together at the end of the day. “It was an epiphany looking at the other expressionless Duke students on the bus at the end of the day, then looking at Alex, who lived life in the moment with so much joy.”
“They are gifts; they being individuals we label as having a disability, but like 1 Corinthians 12, if we can figure out how to incorporate these individuals in our community we’ll all be lifted up and stronger,” said Dr. Cameron.
Here in Fayetteville, the goal is still a faith-based model, but instead of seminary students, Dr. Cameron wants to engage medical residency students from Campbell University, Fayetteville Technical Community College and Physician Assistant students from Methodist University. FHF will be located on Arsenal Avenue between Highland and Broadfoot Avenue in the Savoy Heights neighborhood. The co-location with Highland Presbyterian Church is key to the partnership as the church aims to provide daytime service opportunities for its young adult residents. ServiceSource, a local organization that provides vocational training and employment programs for adults with disabilities, is sponsoring FHF and another FHF partner is Duggins Smith Companies.
Manager for Community Relations and Development for FHF is Tara Brisson Hinton, well known in the Fayetteville community for fundraising and donor development efforts. Hinton’s interest in FHF is near and dear to her heart. Her daughter, Joanna (affectionately known as “Joey”), is a student at Terry Sanford High School and lives with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, a high-functioning form of autism.
After visiting Friendship House Durham and meeting the young adults and Seminary students, Hinton said she cried all day as it was more than she had ever imagined it to be. “If I could change Joey to not have this, I wouldn’t, it makes [her] who she is. She changed me,” said Hinton. “Friendship House helps people with living skills and also helps the community to become more compassionate. God is all in this.”
The Hinton family sees FHF as the next step for Joey to gain some independent living skills after she graduates from high school this year. “This is a true transitional stepping stone,” Hinton said. “It’s not a group home. It’s not a care taking facility. That why it’s called Friendship House because they are truly friends and mentors.”
The motto of FHF is “Eat together, pray together and celebrate together.” The “eat” portion revolves around a community garden residents will plant, tend, harvest and sell goods from at the Farmers Market, in addition to the one community meal per week. The “pray” aspect involves morning and evening prayer and the “celebrate” aspect is to honor special events like birthdays and holidays.
Right now, FHF is solely focused on fundraising. By July 1, 2018, the three houses and large pavilion for community gatherings will house six friends with disabilities and 18 health care students. The Cameron family will live beside the space as Resident Directors. The Chef’s Auction, a fundraising event, will be in October at the Ramada Inn. For more information or to see how you can get involved, check out the Friendship House Fayetteville page on Facebook or visit servicesource.org/giving.