WILMINGTON — A widely-circulated social media post has gained attention locally with hopes of highlighting compassion and understanding.
On Jan. 4, Pastor Angel Porter Boll, of Wilmington Church of God, shared a photo of Latasha Ruddle (the church’s children’s pastor) talking with a person in distress on South Nelson Street. Boll’s post indicates the picture was going around originally with posters saying the church was “hiding or enabling vagrants.”
Ruddle said she came across the post through a different post about homeless encampments.
“Looking through the comments of that post, I clicked on another woman’s name, I see my picture on her Facebook feed,” said Ruddle.
The person who took the original picture was not identified.
The negative post – which has apparently been deleted or isn’t available for the public – called Ruddle and the church “enablers with Sugartree Ministries” and accused them of “covering up the problem,” according to Ruddle.
According to Boll’s post, Ruddle was out running errands when she came across a woman who “was in obvious need of help.” After Ruddle talked to her, the woman stated she needed to get home. The post described the woman as having “some mental health issues” and was “distraught,” but was able to provide an address.
Ruddle told the News Journal the woman had been released from the hospital and just needed to get home to her family.
Ruddle called Boll for assistance since she did not want to drive alone with the woman. Boll grabbed the Church of God’s van and transported the woman home to a family member.
“Somehow this woman was immediately associated with Sugartree Ministries and assumed to be a ‘homeless vagrant’,” Boll states in her post. “And my church caught flack for helping.”
Boll acknowledged her support of Sugartree Ministries and further stated the woman needs more help.
Boll said people should realize there’s more than what’s on the surface.
“I really hope and pray that people will realize this is someone’s daughter, someone’s friend,” Boll states in the post. “I am proud and grateful I had the opportunity to show love. Pray with her. And get her home.”
The post has been shared over 80 times on Facebook, mostly by locals, with many sharing a similar sentiment. Boll said she’s received messages from people as far away as California. The shared post praises the compassion shown by Ruddle and Boll.
Both hope the post and the story behind the picture help spread a message of understanding of this issue.
“What it took for me to understand was to sit down in the mud, have a conversation with her and see what she needed,” said Ruddle. “And until the community is ready to get a little dirty … and have a conversation with people and try to have some empathy and compassion to find out what they really need, we’re not going to make a difference.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574