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"Others refer to it as a safe house, we call it home."

Deb and Steve Word's home in Memphis, Tennessee. Photos via Deb Word, used with permission.


Deb and Steve Word are observant Catholics whose house in Memphis, Tennessee, might look ordinary but is anything but.

Over the past six years, Deb and Steve have fostered over a dozen homeless LGBT kids in their home, most of whom had been rejected by their families.

Not in spite of their Catholic faith, but because of it.

Deb and Steve Word.

"[It was a] WWJD kind of thing," Deb told me via e-mail. "We really just welcomed hurting kids into our spare bedrooms."

According to an interview with CNN, Deb and Steve already knew their son was gay when he came out to them at age 23. When they asked him why he waited so long, he made it clear that, because of their faith, he was worried they would disapprove.

It was a wake-up call for the couple.

Deb holds up a sign reading: "I'm a mom and it's up to me to end LGBT youth homelessness."

"We are practicing Catholics, and outreach is something we have always done in some way or another," Deb wrote in her e-mail. "The truth that rejection seriously hurts our kids is not something the church wants to talk about."

"It is what I would want for my kids if they needed help and had no family to help them." — Deb Word

For Deb and Steve, it was crucial for the kids who lived with them to feel like their house was a home and that they were part of a loving, accepting family. The kids did chores and helped at mealtimes. Many continue to call Deb and Steve "Ma" and "Pop" to this day.

"[One] youth was with us when his mother died. He reconciled with her before she died, but he still carries a lot of baggage. He has moved away, but I hear from him every week, and he comes to visit when he's in town," Deb wrote. "Another of my boys was DADT'd out of the Navy [discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"]. [His] mom didn't know he was coming home or that he was gay. He went thru a really rough period, but is doing great now and back in school with a plan for his future. One of the kids I see every week or so, [is] a trans man who is a great advocate!"

At times, Deb and Steve have struggled to reconcile their religious community and their mission.

"A group I volunteer for, Fortunate Families, is a Catholic group of parents of LGBT kids who help support other parents walk the journey," Deb wrote. "As a group, we were denied an exhibit space at a huge Catholic gathering, (World Meeting of Families) ... Some of the greatest harm to these kids has been done in the name of religion (not God, religion)."

A Fortunate Families booth.

Their work has led to some heartbreaking moments.

"We lost one of our kids a year after he left us. His funeral was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Deb explained, "Parents need to understand the harm that comes from rejection."

But despite the rough moments and heartache, to Deb and Steve, the choice to open their home was an obvious one. Though they have retired from taking in new kids, the couple is currently working with the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center to build a larger shelter for local LGBT kids who need housing and support.

"It is what I would want for my kids if they needed help and had no family to help them," Deb wrote.

And while fostering is a demanding, often complicated job, for Deb, the most important thing they've done for the kids they've helped raise is so simple, it can be summed up in two words:

"Loved them."

Deb Word with one of her foster children.

Images provided by Pacifico

Making waves in the best way

True

At last, summer is here. And for many people, that means it's time for heading to the beach and maybe even catching some waves. Surfing is a quintessential summertime activity for those who live in coastal communities—it’s not only really fun and challenging, it’s also a great way to celebrate Mother Nature’s beauty. Even after a wipeout, the cool water mixed with warm sunshine offers a certain kind of euphoria. Or, you know, just hanging back on the sand is plenty fun too. Simply being outdoors near the ocean is its own reward.

pacifico quiksilver beach cleanupLet’s protect the places where outdoor adventure happensAll photos provided by Pacifico

However, it's well known that our beautiful beaches are suffering the consequences of overcrowding, pollution and littering. What was once a way of playing in nature is now slowly destroying it. And of course, this affects beachgoers everywhere. The sad truth is—without taking action to preserve all the natural joys the earth provides, we will eventually lose them.

But there is hope. Two popular brands that both have roots in surf culture have teamed up to help make trips to the beach a more sustainable pastime. The best part? You don’t have to know how to hang ten in order to participate.

Pacifico®, a pilsner-style lager originally brought to the U.S. by surfers, and Quiksilver, an iconic apparel company loved by both surfers and beach goers alike, have created a brand-new range of clothing and accessories with sustainability in mind.

Take a look below. These threads are great for all kinds of fun in the sun, without compromising the environment.

pacifico quicksilver beach cleanupsReady to make some waves

The collection launches on July 5 and includes tees and woven shirts, boardshorts, hats, flip-flops and a special beach towel and tote bag. The unique collaboration features the vibrant, colorful designs that are the hallmark of Quiksilver combined with Pacifico elements, created to make a positive impact.

Each item has been thoughtfully curated to minimize an environmental footprint and protect the outdoors. The hats, for example, are made from NetPlus® by Bureo®, a raw material created from South American recycled fishing nets. Additionally, the board shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles, and tees are made with 100% organic cotton. Pretty rad stuff, to put it in surfer lingo.

The prices on these pieces are equally rad, ranging from $28 flip-flops to $60 boardshorts.

In keeping with the sustainable ethos and protecting the places we play, Pacifico and Quiksilver will celebrate the products’ launch by hosting two beach cleanups. The first is on July 5 at Sunset Point in Malibu, California, from 4-5:30pm, and the second is on July 9th at Deerfield Beach in Florida from 8:30 – 10:30am.

pacifico quicksilver clothing lineCleaning up and looking good while doing it

Theses beach cleanups are open to anyone over the age of 21 who’s ready to have some fun while taking care of nature’s playground.

Those who can’t make it to the beach (bummer, dude) don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The new collection will be available on July 5th at www.quiksilver.com/mens-collab-pacifico. And even if you don’t surf, never plan to surf, have no desire to even be near a surfboard, rest assured, the apparel is still cool. Plus sustainable choices are always good fashion.

Our planet provides us with an endless supply of beauty and adventure. But without more mindful actions from humanity, its natural wonders will eventually diminish. Fortunately Pacifico and Quiksilver are making it easier than ever for people to enjoy the great outdoors without jeopardizing it. That’s a wave worth riding.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


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She posted about the incident on Facebook.

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