Charles Burns had a presence about him. He was a man of many talents. He and his constant companion, Emma the Wonder Dog, met Brian Combs – a young preacher who wanted to make the church relevant to folks struggling with addiction and homelessness – about 10 years ago. Brian would later say that having Charles vouch for him, gave him the street credibility that became the foundation of Haywood Street Congregation.
Charles was a talented woodworker who created numerous palm crosses and “peace poles” that are now scattered from post Hurricane Sandy homes in New Jersey to indigenous villages in Bolivia. He was generous with anything he owned or anywhere he lived. He took in strays and offered them whatever he had. He loved a good fire and good friends. He was a natural leader who was respected by all.
Charles was the first person that Christopher Holt wanted to draw for the Haywood Street Fresco because he meant so much to so many in the Haywood Street Community. The Charles Burns Fresco Memorial fund will support the longevity of this masterpiece, ensuring that the faces and stories of today’s Haywood Street, will guide, comfort and inspire those who take the torch.