By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post
Last Monday night at the meeting of the Wilson County Board of Education, Director of Schools Mike Davis said that there were more than 170 students countywide who have been identified as homeless.
And several of them have been living with their families at Timberline Campground in off Highway 231 South in Lebanon in tents and campers due to the failing economy and the housing crisis.
Two local churches have made the decision to help those staying at the campground by collecting items that cannot be bought with food stamps, such as toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent and toiletries, and handing them out to those in need. College Hills Church of Christ and Maple Hill Church of Christ are heading up this effort.
Shane Helton, and his wife Melissa, are in charge of College Hills’ collection. They decided this needed to be done after hearing about students in their children’s classes at Southside Elementary.
“There are several kids living out there,” Melissa said. “One little girl in my kid’s class had shoes that were a couple sizes too small. After hearing about this, as well as seeing it on the TV news, Shane and I decided to go out to the campground and see what we could do to help.”
Melissa said that the main needs are detergent, shampoo and clothes. The people there do not have a lot of clothes, so they wash the clothes they have quite a bit.
The Heltons went out to the campground several times over a two-week period. They said that at first they were not getting a very good response from the residents, but Melissa said that after going this past Sunday afternoon, they actually had fun passing out detergent and other items to the families as well as just getting to know them.
The Heltons said that the stories are sad and very touching. Many older people on fixed incomes have moved to the campground because they cannot afford the rent at their previous homes. Rent at the Timberline Campground is $325 per month, which includes water, electricity and sewage.
“One older woman moved to Timberline with her husband,” Melissa said. “She wanted custody of her two granddaughters, but he did not so he left her there with the two girls. They have since been given a camper in which to live.”
She added, “One family with one daughter lived at the campground all last year, and then moved to Florida. They moved back to the area and were living in a trailer, but it was destroyed in a tornado so they moved back to Timberline. They sometimes keep their grandkids.”
“This isn’t anything new,” said Tammy Page, manager of Timberline Campground. “It may have increased a bit, but we’ve always had people here who are down on their luck.”
Page said there are around 75 families living there, each with different situations, and 30-45 children. Timberline puts on a Halloween party each year for the children who live there, but campground personnel would appreciate help with the event this year.
“We are going to put it on Saturday night Oct. 24,” Page said. “We cook chili and let the kids trick-or-treat on the grounds.”
Timberline Campground is located at 1204 Murfreesboro Road next to Southside Elementary School.
Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at email@example.com.