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 in 2009 – a young preacher who wanted to make the church relevant to folks struggling with addiction and homelessness. 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. Charles was a natural leader who was respected by all. Living with throat cancer during his final years, he made every day count…always planning his next adventure, helping a friend and showing us all how to live.
Charles was the first person Christopher Holt wanted to draw for the Haywood Street Fresco because he meant so much to so many in the Haywood Street community. In the painting, Charles is one of two sentinel figures, each of whom are holding the light so that those lost out in the darkness can find their way. These sentinel figures are painted as unfinished sculptures, reminding us that we are all a work in progress.
Contributions to the Charles Burns Memorial Fresco Fund will support the work behind the fresco that puts it on Asheville’s cultural/touristic radar and maintains the fresco as a core Haywood Street program — continually bringing in new visitors and support to enable the ministry to grow and thrive.
In any given year, contributions to the Fund will first be used to offset expenses directly associated with the Haywood Street Fresco. Excess funds may provide general operating support for Haywood Street’s other core programs.