All Doris Attebury wanted to do was work with crafts, but sometimes the road to heaven is p
In December 1999, Attebury and her sister, Patsy, helped form a women’s crafting group in Patsy’s East Lubbock, Texas, neighborhood of Chapel Hill. But as the women began discussing the problems facing the neighborhood’s residents, their organization, now known as the East Lubbock Special Angels (ELSA), quickly shifted its priorities.
The turning point came even before the group’s first craft project was under way. While knocking door-to-door to recruit members, the group stumbled across a young woman who needed help. The expectant mother and her five-year-old daughter were without electricity or food. Attebury stepped in, soliciting donations of food and maternity clothing. The incident gave the group a new vision: Someone has a need, someone has a solution, and sometimes it takes an angel to bring them together.
Age, poverty, and lack of transportation have isolated the residents of this predominantly Hispanic community. With 39 active members, ELSA has become a lifeline to the outside world for many of the community’s 170 families. Though the nearest Salvation Army is less than five miles away, it might as well be halfway across the country, since no bus service runs through Chapel Hill and few residents can afford cars.
Attebury, owner of R/E Professional Consultants in Lubbock, asks friends and business contacts, including homesellers in her Lubbock neighborhood, to donate materials they no longer need—from furniture and leftover building supplies to toys and clothing.
“For years it has bugged me to see things go to the dump that could be reused,” she says.
When a seller wants to throw out an old mattress, or buyers are planning to replace the carpeting in their new home, Attebury gathers these donations. ELSA then finds somebody in Chapel Hill who can use them, holding overflow in a rented storage facility.
ELSA operates without an organized staff, headquarters, or regular meetings, surviving almost entirely on word of mouth. Attebury spends 10–20 hours a week taking phone calls; laundering clothes; and picking up, transporting, and sorting donations. “People appreciate that we don’t sell these items—it makes them feel better that the items go straight to the families,” she says.
The group has also performed such varied good turns as preparing food for residents who have had a death in the family, giving out Easter and Mother’s Day baskets, and repairing homes.
Being an angel hasn’t always been easy for Attebury. Some residents at first resisted what they perceived as an outsider coming into their community. And the sheer volume of needs seemed overwhelming. “The first year I came home so depressed. I felt like I couldn’t help them all.”
But Attebury now feels she gains much more from volunteering than she gives. “Most of us just need that one spark in our life to keep going,” she says. “Working with the angels has helped restore some of my faith in humanity.”
ELSA has provided a similar spark for Chapel Hill. The Special Angels don’t just bring in supplies from Attebury’s market area; they encourage people within the community to give whatever they can.
The Gallup Organization reports that 79 percent of Americans believe in the existence of angels. If they’d polled residents of Chapel Hill, it might have been unanimous.
How to contact Doris Attebury
Doris J. Attebury
R/E Professional Consultants
4402 11th Street
Lubbock, Texas 79416
East Lubbock Special Angels
3906 East Baylor
Lubbock, Texas 79403