Michele Bruce, 35, and David Miska, 47, created online registries with both Wal-Mart and Target to benefit the MUST Ministries emergency shelter and work recovery program.
The couple donates time at the Elizabeth Inn working in the laundry room and computer lab, where clients are helped in building resumes, job searching, applying for food stamps and seeking more permanent housing.
At the back of the men’s quarters are plastic bins where dirty clothes are piled. Bruce and Miska launder those items worn by the men, some who have entered the shelter for the first time after living in the woods or on the streets for a few weeks or months.
Miska said those few items of clothing are all the men might own, often only one pair of pants and socks with holes.
“It is very humbling,” said Bruce, who also assists in the women’s area two Sunday nights a month. “It makes your life perspective very different.”
When he first begin volunteering with MUST Ministries, Miska said he was in awe of the need he saw.
One striking image was of a guy with a trash bag slung over his shoulder, holding all his possessions, as he headed into the woods.
As a certified public accountant who works as a recovery audit expert, Bruce said she appreciates how MUST Ministries relies on a volunteer staff, meaning time and donations go directly to clients to make an impact.
Bruce said the Elizabeth Inn is designed to be a short-term solution to help homeless families and individuals save resources to pull themselves out of a bad situation.
In order to sleep at the emergency overnight shelter, clients must complete chores, stay sober and find a job.
“You have to say, ‘I’ll do my part,’” Miska said.
Although Bruce admits it is hard for some men and women who face drug and alcohol addictions to change.
“It does take a lot of strength, especially if everyone sees you that way,” Bruce said about clients who have a criminal record or are getting out of rehabilitation for substance abuse. “There is a lot given, but there is a lot of expectations.”
Community work by members of the community
Miska, who was raised in Louisville, Ky., but spent 24 years in Fairfax, Va., moved to Cobb in 2011 through a transfer with Lockheed Martin to take a position as senior manager for environment safety and health.
Two years ago, Bruce and Miska individually volunteered in the large organized effort to clean up different sections of the Chattahoochee River called Sweep the Hooch.
Last year, the duo worked side by side as friends. But next weekend, Bruce and Miska will be volunteering as a couple very much in love with each other and the community work they do together.
Both Bruce and Miska started volunteering at the Elizabeth Inn while enrolled in the Leadership Cobb class with the Cobb Chamber in 2013.
“I knew Michele was someone I wanted as a friend,” Miska said about Bruce from the first time they met.
While washing the dirty laundry of people in need, conversations between Bruce and Miska developed that made the couple realize they shared the same values.
“Our dates aren’t traditional ones,” Bruce said.
In fact, the couple spent this past Valentine’s Day working in the laundry room of MUST Ministries.
Miska proposed one year almost to the date after the couple took their first hike through Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park at a peak on the trail, overlooking the Cobb community they will now call home together.
Bruce said volunteering for MUST Ministries has been the greatest thing to ever happen in her life. Miska in a quick and quiet way, with a smile spread across his face, said Bruce is the best thing to every happen to him in his life.
“In this marriage, I am teaming up with somebody,” Miska said. The couple will be better able to give together and make a difference together than they could as two individuals.
The registry, Bruce said, is just an example of their “joint desire.”
The gifts that keep on giving
Miska lives in west Cobb off Cheatham Hill Road in the heart of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Bruce is selling her condo in east Cobb to soon share the west Cobb home with Miska.
The couple said they already seem to have two of everything: coffee makers, knife sets, toasters, washers and dryers. They plan on donating the extra items to MUST Ministries.
Even though the couple say they want for nothing, their wedding guests still want to bring gifts.
“People were still being insistent on expressing their good luck to us” in the form of presents, Miska said.
So, at the bottom of one of the cards in the couple’s wedding invitation reads, “Should you feel the need to give, give for our neighbors in need.”
The online gift registry includes bulk items, like a box of toothbrushes with travel kits that equals out to 50 cents per package. The list includes rain ponchos, Band-Aids, tubs of detergent, underwear and especially bras for women and socks for little kids.
“Everybody is kind of absorbing it right now,” Miska said. “When is the last time you gave Pine-Sol at a wedding?”
But the couple said there are packages of diapers arriving to Miska’s house and even friends of family members who do not know the couple are offering cash donations for the cause.
The couple will wed in Roswell next month, and Ike Reighard, president and CEO of MUST, will marry them.
Reighard said Bruce and Miska were united by their incredible hearts and their commitment to give a helping hand to people in need.
Still, Reighard said even though the couple has a remarkable social consciousness and mature outlook on life, both Bruce and Miska often downplay their hard work and are not trying to impress anyone.
“They are the kind of people that make the world a much better place,” Reighard said.