Code Purple Kent director stepping down

DOVER — The estimated population of around 350 homeless people in the Dover area will be losing a strong advocate when Becky Martin steps down as executive director of Code Purple Kent County in a couple of weeks.

However, Mrs. Martin is confident the organization that she founded, along with Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Allan Angel, will continue its mission to serve the less fortunate under the direction of Dr. Maribel Zaragoza and Ennio Emmanuel as they prepare to take over the reins of the nonprofit organization.

“They, along with their chosen team, will be taking over the duties of Code Purple in Kent County,” Mrs. Martin said. “Nothing will change. The mission remains. Sanctuaries will open, but we are sure their vision will include more to offer those in need.

“We will be advisors to their new board helping anyway we can. We know our wonderful community will continue to support Code Purple.”

Dr. Zaragoza is a medical doctor at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes and a pastor at MLCC Maranatha Life Changing Church in Dover. Mr. Emmanuel is a director of Dream4, a member of the governor’s advisory board for English learners, chaplain for Marketplace Chaplains and an avid Code Purple leader.

“With Firefly (Music Festival) over, and new visions on the horizon, the board of Code Purple Kent County has decided to make a change to new energetic fresh ideas and a younger board,” Mrs. Martin said.

She did admit that it will be difficult to step away from something that she had the vision for.

“It has been very melancholy for me these past few months,” said Mrs. Martin. “Code Purple is a huge part of my heart, but it is time for me to step aside and enjoy my family and friends and let a new breath of fresh air continue.”

Code Purple is called when the nighttime temperature dips below freezing and several emergency sanctuaries — mostly churches staffed by volunteers — open their doors for the homeless.

Code Purple Kent County served more than 3,700 homeless people from last December through March. It was open a total of 117 nights last season.

Compassionate leader
It was a cold, snowy night in January 2012 when Mrs. Martin, then a mortgage lender in Dover, had a thought that she couldn’t get out of her mind.

She was sitting with her husband when she began to think, “Where do people who don’t have homes go when it gets this cold outside?”
So, she picked up her phone and dialed 2-1-1, pretending to be homeless, to try to find an answer.

Mrs. Martin discovered the nearest shelter that was open was in Rehoboth Beach.
That wasn’t the answer she was looking for and it turned out that phone call was the catalyst which eventually started Code Purple Kent County, founded by her and Kent County Commissioner Angel.

“You open up your arms, and you don’t just turn your back on them,” Mrs. Martin said, of the homeless. “They’re human beings. I’m very strong on that.”
Cope Purple Kent County began with three churches serving as sanctuaries for the homeless on those frigid nights.

Last year it wasn’t unusual to have as many as 10 churches and nonprofits serving as sanctuaries from the bitter cold of winter. Not only that, but these days the homeless are also provided with a warm meal and a hot breakfast the following morning.
Most of that was due to the diligent efforts of Mrs. Martin and her gang of volunteers.

She has also been instrumental in helping Code Purple volunteers clean up and repurpose items left behind from attendees to the annual Firefly Music Festival, has sold bracelets at Firefly to benefit her organization and helped Code Purple Kent County acquire a small bus that it can transport homeless people in, among other things.

“Becky Martin is the heart and soul of Code Purple Kent County,” Commissioner Angel said.
Appreciation is given
When word of Mrs. Martin’s upcoming departure from Code Purple Kent County began to spread on Wednesday, kind words began to flow towards her on social media.

Never one to seek out the spotlight, she couldn’t escape it this time.
Sen. Trey Paradee wrote, “Becky, you have done so much to help so many people and to change so many lives for the better, including mine. You created something so special in our community. I am so grateful that our lives crossed paths on this crazy planet.
“Thank you so much for everything you have done to help those less fortunate in our community. You are an amazing leader and friend. You may say that you’re stepping down, but, for some reason, I seriously doubt that this is the last we’ll hear from Rebecca Manahan Martin.”

There were plenty more who thanked Mrs. Martin for her contributions to helping the homeless and wished her happiness in the future.
“Much respect for what you have accomplished,” wrote Kelli Betts Weidlein. “You have changed so many lives. Now it’s time to enjoy yours to the fullest.”

Linda Spindler Lyon posted, “Time to rest. You’ve given them a strong program that came from a concern in your heart that has touched hundreds and hundreds of people. Well done!”
Ironically, it was Mrs. Martin who said she felt blessed to be able to offer a hand up to the homeless.

“Thanks to all of you for your support,” she said. “I am so very, very blessed to have been able to take my passion and see changes in lives. Love to all again, and many, many thanks.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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