Pink Palace offers second chances
Sara Rachels, Staff Writer
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2010 12:01 pm
A NEW BEGINNING – Residents and workers at the Pink Palace New Start Non-Profit stand in front of their work in progress at 300 S. McCombs St. Pictured are (front, from left) resident Aurby Marqui Paschall, Kimberly Lambrix with her daughter and co-founder Kirsten Kimble and her son Kody Kimble, (back, from left) resident Edwon Jenkins, resident Terrace “Peanut” Green, resident Cedric Allen and volunteer worker Willie Wall.
As soon as he catches a glimpse of her face as she walks into the Subway, his face lights up and he calls, “Hi, Mom!”
Normally, this small act of courtesy would go unnoticed. Except that, in this case, Aurby Marqui Paschall is a tall, young African-American and the person he calls mom, Kimberly Lambrix, is a petite Caucasian woman. Though they are unrelated by blood, they share a special bond – a bond that has succeeded in saving both of their lives.
It wasn’t that long ago when both individuals debated whether or not life was really worth living. Paschall had been in trouble, felt he had nowhere to turn and needed a new direction. Likewise, Lambrix left an abusive relationship in Michigan and found herself and her children stalled in Tennessee. With Paschall needing an opportunity and a family and Lambrix needing motivation to get up everyday, the idea for Pink Palace New Start Non-Profit was born.
Lambrix and her children had been renting the large pink house at 300 S. McCombs St., but when Paschall and, later on, Terrace “Peanut” Green and Cedric Allen showed up for direction, Lambrix decided to turn the 110-year old former birthing center and church into a halfway house.
“We started off renting and then the first person came to us with a situation and we decided we couldn’t go through with this unless we bought the house,” Lambrix explained.
“Two months ago, Marqui started coming continuously. He said he’d made a mistake and turned away from his family. It was a pivotal moment. He explained that he was tired of life, he’d been caught selling marijuana and I knew we couldn’t turn our back on him. He became like family. He’s taking things slowly, but he takes pride in his accomplishments. Since April of this year, he’s taken steps towards a driver’s license, a GED and college. Within seven days after moving in, he had found a job.”
Later on, another person – Green – came to Lambrix for help. He’d been living out of a van with another person and after taking in food from Lambrix as if he were starving, he tearfully thanked her for the first meal he’d had in three days and she invited him in to live.
“We have one-on-one conversations as part of the application process. There’s a section on the written part about crimes committed and they have to tell the truth. They have to be honest. It opens doors. When Marqui said that this gave him a sense of self worth, I knew I had to do this. We have random drug testing and if the test comes back positive, they have to leave,” Lambrix explained. “This is used to open doors and give support, but they also have to have the desire.” Lambrix spoke to the owner of Roadrunner Academy Driving School about jobs, has gone to Santa’s Helpers and We Care for clothing and other items and is receiving help renovating the old house from the efforts of The Color Shop, residents, her children and volunteers like Willie Wall.
“It’s livable. Most people wouldn’t consider it home. I didn’t at first, but I went from a deep depression to being able to trust people again. People make mistakes, but we shouldn’t judge. So many people are coming to me now that I’ve had to start a waiting list, but we bring in cots if we have to,” Lambrix admitted.
The program, thus far, has been funded entirely out of Lambrix’s pocket. Because of insufficient staffing, she’s had to take in only men, but hopes to one day be able to take in women too and start another house out in the country.
She also whole-heartedly believes that Paschall will one day open his own halfway house. After all, he willingly donated the majority of his first paycheck to help.
“It’s a change in mindset. Doors open. They have no family, no support. The hardest part is getting them to adapt to a family setting. That’s harder than getting a job. We set rules and guidelines. We do things as a group. It’s never a one-person thing. Since Marqui has been here, he’s been put on the board. He’s accomplished so much. He has the passion and the desire. He sees the need.” Lambrix commented.
And Green? He’s stopped selling drugs, stopped smoking marijuana and is now writing down his goals for the future.
“This has taken away my depression. These are my kids now. People ask me about my kids and their ages and when they see me, they think I’m off my rocker. I don’t see color. I’m just waiting for the day when I get the call that one of them has graduated from college,” Lambrix remarked.
“Nobody ever says, ‘I want to grow up to go to jail.’ They had dreams too. The dreams just got clouded, but people judge. When they leave here, they will be people I would want to be near in a community. And Marqui will carry on if I can’t.”
Paschall smiles shyly and speaks modestly when he reflects back on his life before and after the Pink Palace.
“It’s been slow, but I stayed focused,” he admitted. “You’ve just got to be serious about wanting to change. You’ve got to learn respect. There are seven of us and there are personality clashes everyday, but we’re able to sit down and talk about it and work it out.”
There are 20 rooms in the big house and they are still works in progress. The kitchen and floors need major work and dry-wall hanging, painting and plumbing continue. So much already done, so much to do, yet so much for which to be thankful. Like the people who inhabit it, the house is rebuilding. With positive attitudes and love holding them together, they will soon become masterpieces.
To find out more about the Pink Palace or to provide support, call 731-223-9843, email AurbyP@yahoo.com or stop by for a visit.