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Peaceable Kingdom


Even as North Carolina and the nation continue to reel from job losses, Paul found one Wilmington company where lay-offs are never on the agenda.By Paul Wilkes

Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Paul's commentary.]

The next time you?re driving up Dawson or down Wooster, I?m going to ask you to take a detour and turn onto 13th street and head south. Head toward the Peaceable Kingdom.

Yes, down there, just on the other side of the railroad tracks, in an area dotted with warehouses is a place called Coastal Enterprises. Sounds business-like, doesn?t it, but this is an entirely different kind of business. A business where each employee is precious, and no one gets fired. Or laid off. At Coastal Enterprises, a guy or a gal does the best they can and nobody is pushing for higher quotas, better performance, increased sales.

For Coastal Enterprises is a sheltered workshop. ?Sheltered? in that those of us who might not have all the physical or mental skills that the marketplace demands can still find meaningful work.

Just park near the back door, go in and ask for Agnes and she?ll be happy to show you around.

To show you the group of women sewing sacks to hold tent poles for the tents the Army uses for emergency shelter in disaster areas.

To show you the assembly of tiny boxes that will protect the fire sprinklers made by Wilmington company. Or the huge boxes, on wooden palates so that toxic waste can be easily disposed of. Intricate, many-step assembly jobs are broken down so that everyone can have a piece of the action. Even if your hands tremble or your mind wanders, there is work for you at Coastal Enterprises.

In the middle of the main assembly area is a huge pile of scrap paper. There, you can work as fast or as slow as you want to, sorting out by newsprint, cardboard, coated paper. You will be paid by your output, but if, at day?s end, your poundage is low, Agnes? esteem is still high. You came to work. You?re one of our own.

So many of the people in this Peaceable Kingdom would otherwise sit at home ? or in a home ? all day long. With none of their friends. With no sense of accomplishment.

Some of them have been down hard roads, lived on the streets, some still do. But here they are members of a family. Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays are special days here. The world outside might look at the way you dress, the way you walk, even have some opinion about the very look on your face, but here you are looked upon with.. yes?with love?.but more importantly?.with respect.

I love visiting the Peaceable Kingdom there on 13th and Kidder Streets. Whatever worries or anxieties I bring in the door seem to melt away when I see those upturned faces. What really is there to worry about? Here, everything works out, one way or the other.

Paul Wilkes teaches in the English Department at UNCW, and is the creator of New Beginnings, a church renewal program.