By Sabrina Hornung and Tom Bixby
He came into the Gladstone Inn in Jamestown and asked if he could use the phone. He had a piece of paper with a name and a phone number on it. The desk clerk gave him the phone.
But something was wrong. He couldn’t manage to use the phone, maybe didn’t know how. “I was out in front doing some paperwork,” said manager Phyllis Thompson. “You could see he was just struggling. He said ‘I can’t get this to go through.’”
So Phyllis said, “Let me dial it for you.” She reached the voicemail of Adam Martin, in Fargo. She handed the phone to the man, and he said, “I don’t even have a number for you to call me back on.” He hung up the phone and he was crying.
The man, Phyllis thought, was in his 40s. He said that he’d just lost his wife, and here he was with two sons, 17 and 8 years old, with nowhere to go. He said to his son, “Don’t set that backpack down, it’s got your mother’s ashes in it.” They left the building.
Phyllis went out there too. “Now that you can’t reach this guy, what’s your plan?”
He said, “I really don’t have one. I need to get the kids something to eat. And I was going to go up to the interstate and catch a ride to Michigan. If I can get to Michigan, I have family there.”
“Why don’t you come back in?” Phyllis remembered she had apples and crackers in her office. “I sat down, got on the phone and verified, his wife had passed away.”
She had a room available. “Why don’t you stay here tonight and get some rest? Tomorrow will look a little better for you. Maybe perhaps then you can get ahold of this gentleman. And all three of them, thank you thank you thank you and we got them settled.”
Phyllis kept the paper with the phone number. “And then the next morning, that’s how I got to know Adam Martin. I called him and told him what we had on our hands, that this individual needed some help.”
“I said I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you’re Red Cross or Salvation Army or who you are, but this individual was given your number, and then Adam told me about the F5 Project.”
The Project, on its website, states its mission. “...helps the transitioning of Returning Citizens from confinement to a new life.”
“And then I went oh wow, that’s really great that he does that.”
Phyllis told Adam about the situation and the kids and the man’s wife. “I don’t know where he was in prison. He said only that his wife had passed away a week before he got out, ‘and now we’re homeless.’”
“Your heart just breaks, and you think oh my God, and you just do what you’re called to do, and help take care of somebody. So I did basically what we could do until we got ahold of Adam. He asked what train tickets would cost and what bus tickets would cost and I told him we’d booked bus tickets.
“Adam said go ahead and buy those bus tickets. He was speaking at a conference at the Gladstone on September 12, and he would reimburse us for the tickets. One of my staff members went with them and made sure they got to the bus on time, at 4:30 in the morning on Saturday the ninth.”
The man said he had family in Michigan and they would be waiting for him.’ They, the three of them, would have arrived in Detroit 24 hours later.
Jan, the administrative assistant at the hotel, is 77 and ready to give notice and retire. She came back to work at the Gladstone because of Phyllis. “She is that kind of person,” said Jan. “This wasn’t the first time that Phyllis helped people. I want you to know that it isn’t just a one-time thing. She’ll probably try to downplay her part in it, but I’m not going to let her get by with that.”
Phyllis said yes she had, but this time was different. She didn’t know Adam was going to post anything about it.
“We all are called to do our part and we should do it without ever expecting any recognition for it, or anything back in return. The time will come when we have that returned to us. I believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime. And I think this is one of those where He put him in my life for a reason. So it was a blessing for both parts, for them and for me.
“We contributed two nights and Adam will take care of the tickets.”
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