The Shinnston News & Harrison County Journal has named Belynda Kirby as September’s Citizen of the Moth, a program sponsored by Dorsey Funeral Home in Shinnston – locally owned & operated.
By TRINA RUNNER
News & Journal Staff Writer
For Belynda Kirby, September can be summed up with a number of seemingly unrelated events: making hundreds of meatballs, spending the night in a tent in downtown Clarksburg, and helping to find housing for a stranger. The connection is found is one word: empathy.
With West Virginia’s homeless population numbering in the thousands, Kirby believes even one person without a warm place to stay is too many. Armed with her faith, family and determination, she has impacted the community with her compassion, kindness and most importantly, action.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Kirby graduated from Old Dominion University with a Political Science degree. She was active as the Mission Outreach Coordinator and volunteered regularly for the Judeo Christian Outreach Center for the homeless. She created a “Christmas in July” party for the children who may not be housed in the shelter during the holidays, making it possible for them to enjoy the spirit of Christmas while experiencing the toy distribution usually limited to once a year.
Additionally, Kirby served on the Fundraising Board for the Lighthouse Center, a facility dedicated to housing the homeless during the day at Virginia Beach. Her volunteer work with the winter shelter program and church programs kept her busy and blessed, and gave her a firm foundation of experience for when she and her family relocated to Bridgeport.
Joining the GFWC Juniors allowed Kirby to meet other women in the area who were also interested in service. She found her calling, once again, with the homeless community. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Clarksburg City Mission, she has had the opportunity to learn the stories behind the faces. She recently participated in the One Homeless Night event, during which she stayed in a tent in downtown to experience homelessness and learn more about agencies that assist those affected.
Her genuine concern for the families affected by homelessness has led to volunteering for Homes for Harrison, a non-profit organization that locates and interviews homeless individuals with the intent of finding permanent housing solutions for them. The organization assists people with finding agencies and resources to get them back on their feet and even designates “neighbors”, who, like Kirby, continue to check in on the residents.
“It is such a privilege to see the residents adapt to having their own homes, to be able to assist them and to develop lasting friendships with them.” Kirby said.
For the Kirbys, community service is a family affair. While Belynda coordinates the Annual Johnson Elementary Field Day and serves as PTA Secretary and LSIC President, her children have followed her lead and created projects of their own in order to give back.
Kirby’s son Colt, who is in 6th Grade at Bridgeport Middle School, collects Christmas gifts for the Humane Society and volunteers there to help with the animals. Daughter Charlotte, a third grader at Johnson Elementary, has collected over 3,000 toys over the last four years so that homeless and low income families can have the chance to shop for their children during the holidays. The toys are distributed to both the Soup Opera in Fairmont and the Clarksburg City Mission and they accept requests for children and teens.
During December, the family does one good deed a day, ranging from volunteering at the mission or humane society to taking treats to those in need or sponsoring family food baskets. Additionally, they cook and serve meals for Celebrate Recovery attendees and the mission residents, most recently making over 200 homemade meatballs to accompany a full feast she prepared. Kirby also leads step studies as a leader for Celebrate Recovery.
Kirby’s vision and dedication to the homeless community has had a tremendous impact on Harrison County, inspiring countless others, including her children to commit to community service projects on a regular basis. Her humility and overwhelming kindness are admirable and more importantly, life-changing to those who have had the privilege to know her.