When Tequila Stewart and Laymond Anderson first arrived in Grand Rapids from Benton Harbor with their four children six years ago, the first person they met was John McGill, a regular at Heartside Ministry.
"He became like an uncle to us," Tequila said. "He was such a good person, especially his laughter."
Today, if you hear laughter in the Community Room at Heartside Ministry, there's a good chance Tequila is at the center of it. Most days, Tequila or Laymond spend their time volunteering at the Hospitality desk or the welcome table.
"I like how y'all look out for people," Tequila said. "I'm a people person and I love being here."
Tequila started volunteering before Laymond, who is quieter. But before long, their love of their community drew them both in each morning. During their own tough times, Heartside helped them find permanent housing.
"We just want to show a little love and appreciation back, helping people when they need help," said Laymond. Some days that means disarming a riled neighbor with humor, directing someone to our advocacy office for "help getting meds when you don't have a penny," or finding creative ways to communicate with a person who can't speak.
"Without Heartside Ministry, I don't know what Division would be like down here," said Laymond, who especially appreciates our GED program. "Everyone is nice and respectful and will help you out any way they can."
Even when people get an attitude about not getting any mail that day - even though it hasn't been delivered to Heartside yet. "One of us has got to be the better man," Laymond said.
"He's more lenient than me," Tequila said with her easy laugh, "because I'd be snappin' at them."
That's part of what has made them such a great pair for 27 years. They hope to get married at Heartside someday. They only wish John McGill could be here to celebrate with them. He passed away last fall.
Instead, Laymond and Tequila live content knowing they are passing on John's legacy of welcoming people who are new to Heartside, making them feel at home, pointing them in the right direction, and brightening their day with a good laugh.