BY NICK BOWMAN
One load of laundry at a time, Beronica Nash is making Gainesville a kinder place.
Rustling up donated turkeys for a Thanksgiving dinner at LAMP Ministries in Gainesville, helping outfit the homeless with bags of essentials from her car, tracking down donations of diapers or formula for mothers in need — Nash’s service has lifted the spirits of hundreds in Gainesville, each act a small piece of a journey to spread joy in North Georgia.
The mother and former Hall County Superior Court employee has embarked on another mission this year: Dorcas Place Inc., a mobile, nonprofit children’s clothing closet that received its freshly minted nonprofit status this summer.
Dorcas Place is run from Nash’s garage, her car and her Facebook page. The name comes from the Bible, and is the Greek version of the name Tabitha, which appears in the book of Acts.
Tabitha, or Dorcas, is raised from the dead by Peter, who describes her as too essential to the fledgling Christian community in Joppa to be left for dead. He prays over her body and she is returned to life.
These days, Nash can often be found at Townview Laundry at the corner of Main Street and College Avenue, washing clothes that will eventually make it into the hands of children and parents who need them, turning donations and quarters into a clean set of school clothes for a fifth-grader or a new coat for a freshman — and peace of mind for a parent.
“She volunteers with anything that has to be done,” said Mary Mauricio, executive director of LAMP Ministries. “We’re just blessed to have her volunteering here, and we wish her well.”
She’s built up a collection of supplies and clothes for children at her Gainesville home. Other than two events distributing goods each year, one held before the start of school and another before Christmas, Nash does most of her work from her car.
“I had a teacher yesterday tell me that one of her students, she noticed that he had his shoes duct taped together. The kids can’t help it,” Nash said in early November.
Acting as a catalyst for good one person at a time — helping to connect donors with people in need through social media and some old-fashioned legwork — is the primary work of Dorcas Place. Nash will hear of a need or get asked for help and will then broadcast that need to her networks.
“A lot of donors just want to be anonymous — and I call them angels. All the angels that God has sent that have just been willing to help, and I don’t have a grant. I don’t have any type of funding — I don’t know how it operates,” Nash said, breaking into laughter. “I can’t really explain it, but if someone needs an item, it just shows up. Someone just happens to have it, and they’ll just donate it.”
Throughout her life, Nash has been prompted to chip in to help fill a need that may seem small but means the world to the person in need. In 2016, before Dorcas Place had a name or a refined mission, Nash would pack essentials for the homeless and fill her trunk with bags she could distribute when needed.
“It would have a tarp, some scissors, duct tape, food, hygiene items,” Nash said, pausing to think and each time adding a few more items to her list. “Just some of the things you would need if you were on the streets — socks, gloves, flashlight, a blanket, poncho.
I would just have items like that in bags and keep them in my car at all times.”
Dorcas Place began to take shape that year when she saw a post on Facebook from a desperate new mother.
“She had a newborn and she was in need of items. You could just tell from the post that she was just very afraid and she needed help,” Nash said. “I made a post saying, ‘Hey, you guys, this lady needs help. I don’t have a baby, but does anyone have some items they can donate?’”
People stepped up to fill the request, and Nash would go on to find more mothers in need and, again and again, cast a net for donations.
“My goal is to pretty much have everything on hand that I can for a child, but it makes it difficult because I don’t have a physical location,” Nash said. “I may have a mom that needs a baby bed, and I may have a donor who wants to donate a baby bed, but I have nowhere to store the items.”
Children are where Nash feels she can make the most difference in Gainesville, and while Dorcas Place is officially a clothing closet, it deals in all manner of goods — from cribs to diapers to shoes — for kids.
That may be because it was children that inspired her volunteer work in the first place — starting in 2011 with her own vulnerable, bloodied and desperately ill son, Jeremiah.
“I woke up on Christmas morning and there was blood — it looked like a murder scene in my house,” she said.
Jeremiah was just a 6-month-old baby then.
The Times wrote about Jeremiah’s case in 2017. He has Bernard-Soulier syndrome, a rare disorder that affects his platelets and prevents his blood from clotting. He still receives regular treatments at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“It could be me,” Nash said of the parents she helps. “I had to quit my job at the courthouse to be my son’s caregiver. It’s just by the grace of God that I even kept my head above water and that we had food and all that. I just put myself in that place, and was like, ‘Really, this actually could have been me — us — because I was a single mom.’”
Nash has since married and can dedicate herself both to her son’s care and her nonprofit. She hopes to one day have her own space to offer a “one-stop shop” for kids in need, expanding from clothes to other goods and even scholarships to fund after-school activities for children
Anything that would help her spread a little joy in the face of hardship.
“I just need to meet the need. Nobody wakes up and expects their child to be covered in blood on the floor, and that’s exactly how my child was,” she said. “Nobody wakes up and says, ‘Oh, I think I’m going to have cancer today, and I’m prepared for it.’ You can’t prepare for things like that.”