Renate Macchirole is one of my heros who work toward building the common good on the Outer Banks. For years she has worked with many nonprofit organization to bring community services to a diversity of folks that live on the beach. I was really pleased to read about Renate’ new project with the Room at the Inn. The best way to learn about it is from the Outer Banks Sentinel that published an article in January.
ROOM IN THE INN Creating a ‘safe place’
Macchirole participates in the ‘Slipper Ceremony’ with two Room in the Inn guests.
PHOTO BY NEEL KELLER | SENTINEL STAFF
Posted: Tuesday, January 2, 2018 9:00 pm
Renate Macchirole wants Room in the Inn to transform lives
In its eighth year of providing assistance and lodging to those in need of shelter, Room in the Inn (RITI) has both a new intake center in Manteo and its first Operations Coordinator, Renate Macchirole, who has built a reputation for spearheading innovative programs in Dare County.
At the heart of the RITI program — which runs from Nov. 19 through April 1 — are the participating churches, which sign up to serve as one-week hosts, providing a safe place to sleep, along with a hot dinner, hot breakfast and a bag lunch for guests to take with them.
With the former intake center at His Dream Center in Manteo no longer available for that function, RITI has rented for a year a house across the highway from the Elizabethan Inn in Manteo for intake, which is held daily from 4 to 6 p.m.
Even more significant is the addition of Macchirole, someone RITI co-founder Gail Leonard describes as having “such humanity and such understanding of what our guests have gone through…And it’s made such a difference already. She has made this program more than it was. She’s made it a home.”
Macchirole grew up in Queens, New York, and attended Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, majoring in special education. After working with adults with developmental disabilities and as a substance abuse counselor, Macchirole moved to the Outer Banks, where her daughter and her family were living, in 2005.
“There are no coincidences,” Macchirole says. After spending the final months with a friend who was receiving hospice services in Scranton, she decided to come to the Outer Banks — where the only available job she found was working with Dare County Home Health and Hospice. There, she was hired to start a respite volunteer program.
“In the course of getting the word out on the respite program,” Macchirole says, “I started meeting families with kids who had disabilities. They told me they had no place to go and I was appalled.”
Starting an all-volunteer Saturday morning respite program for parents of children with disabilities, Macchirole watched “in awe” as First Flight High School opened up a special education classroom for the new group to meet in three times a week.
Next, with the help of Community Development Corporation Executive Director Chuck Poe, the Dare County Parks and Recreation Youth Center in Kill Devil Hills made space available for weekday programs. Dubbed The Beach Club, the new program soon started what many called a “quiet revolution” in day program services for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
Following the closing of Albemarle Mental Health Center in 2009, Monarch N.C. was approved to assume responsibility for the area Adult Developmental Activity Program (ADAP) day program facilities. Monarch Executive Director Peggy Terhune asked Macchirole to bring the club under the umbrella of the Monarch programs. In August of 2010 the two programs merged into the Beach Club.
The new initiative became a model for several neighboring counties, whose ADAP programs renamed themselves in ways that were meaningful to the members, launching the Lighthouse Club, the River City Achievement Center, the Heritage Club and the Scuppernong Club.
Asked to account for her club’s success, Macchirole said, “We don’t have a word about disabilities in our name or in what we do. We are individuals who are getting out and doing wonderful things.”
Macchirole ended up with her current position at RITI after Nancy Griffin — an old acquaintance and the current RITI Board of Directors President — asked if she’d like to become the program’s first ever coordinator. The answer was yes.
Discussing the new intake center in Manteo, Macchirole noted that it is convenient to several of the nearby hosting churches. “We have our own great space,” she explained, “and are available most days for people during the day as well, to get settled mentally, physically and emotionally.”
“People are supposed to be ‘problem solving’ and figuring out how they’re going to get a job, how they’re going to make enough money to get a place to live, how they’re going to get food for tonight,” Macchirole said. “But they’re wandering around all day, so that’s not going to happen. What they need is a safe place where they can figure all that out. And that’s what this is.”
Macchirole and two guests illustrated this “safe haven” concept as the guests removed their shoes, put on new slippers and wiggled their toes inside the slippers.
“They’re squishing their toes inside the slippers,” Macchirole explained, “because home is where you can take your shoes off and find a safe place. It’s where you can get grounded and begin to figure things out.”
This year, Macchirole is planning to introduce Sunday afternoon “family meetings” at the intake house, providing an opportunity to share, explore ways to volunteer, give back to the community and develop a stronger sense of self-worth.
Thanking RITI founder Gail Leonard for being her “mentor,” along with her “phenomenal” intake coordinators and gracious host churches, Macchirole said: “I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and that is so encouraging…This is the beginning of transformation in so many lives — and this is where it’s going to happen.”
“This program is a real lifesaver,” one guest told the Sentinel last week. “The staff is excellent, the hosts are great and it’s very beneficial when times are hard. Can you imagine being unemployed and you’re outside and just walking around all day? You feel like a lost soul.”
“It wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is,” another observed, “if it weren’t for Gail and Renate. They are special people.”
For more information on the program, call Macchirole at 252-256-0347.