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Barry’s Official Last Day

15 Jun

Yesterday was the last official last day for Barry at Christian Help. We hope the family arrived safely and that their new home will soon  feel like home. We wish them the best and thanks again for all you did to help Christian Help during your time with us.

“We’re talking about ‘us'”: Charleston Gazette op-ed

7 Mar

An op-ed column that I wrote appeared in Saturday’s Charleston Gazette.  Here’s the full text (which is online here).

“Hardship not limited to the lazy”

by Barry Hudock

Sometimes the debate about funding for welfare and other social service programs tends to sound like a lot of hand-wringing about what to do about “those people,” the ones who screwed up so bad or are so lazy, they need “our” help.

When I read the stats presented in a brand new study on food hardship, I was frustrated, but not surprised. More than 22 percent of West Virginians reported in 2010 not having enough money to buy food that they or their family needed at some point during the prior 12 months. That ranks the state at 11th place in food hardship rates — not good, but in good company.

Here in the southern part of the state, things are worse. The state’s most severe food hardship is in the Third Congressional District, with a rate of 24.4 percent. One out of every four people here finds it a challenge to afford enough food for their families. The district ranks in the top 12 percent throughout the nation in food hardship rates. Again, not a good place to be, but clearly we’re not alone.

The national food hardship study was published Wednesday by the Food Research and Action Center, which used information provided by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The new data documents what we see every day at Christian Help of Mingo County — just how much people are struggling in our communities. It’s not something that happens to “other” people, or just the “lazy” ones. It happens to a lot of us.

Like many organizations, we provide a food pantry to help meet the needs where government assistance leaves off. We also provide a well-stocked clothing store that’s free to people in need. We give free rides to medical appointments and grocery stores, and financial help for emergency situations. As a result, we have a strong sense of the need that’s out there, and I can say that demand for our service was huge during 2010.

The struggle to balance budgets is big news these days, and there’s no doubt it’s a challenge. I do not envy those who must make decisions about what and how much to cut. But I’m deeply concerned about potential cuts to low-income assistance programs proposed by Congress for the FY 2011 budget. I hope our elected officials will protect programs that help low-income families.

We can’t balance the budget on the backs of those struggling to survive, because we’re not talking about a small, marginalized group of lazy outsiders. We’re talking about many who are hard-working, well-meaning people who sometimes find themselves needing help they’d rather not need. We’re talking about “us.”

Hudock is executive director of Christian Help of Mingo County.

“We would be hurting if not for them”: Distribution coverage

23 Dec

The Williamson Daily News did a wonderful job convering the Christmas distribution in yesterday’s paper.  Here’s the full front-page article (which is on their website here):

KERMIT — “And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.” Matthew 25:40 (American King James Bible).

The above scripture was quoted during a prayer prior to Christian Help’s annual Christmas Distribution Drive. For the non-profit charitable organization’s drive, there is no quote or scripture more fitting to describe the reason for the annual giveaway.

“It’s all about serving God and living out his love,” said Christian Help Director Barry Hudock.

In all, Christian Help collected 2,980 toys, more than 2,000 stuffed animals, and 800 books that were given to 305 low-income Mingo County families. In addition to those massive numbers, food for 1,900 people was given out as well.

“Thank God for all the good people who have helped us and all the people who sent toys,” said Sister Brendan Conlon, who returned from retirement to help with the Christmas toy drive.

Along with Conlon, retired Sister Janet Peterworth of ABLE Families helped with the drive that boasted over 30 volunteers, many of whom traveled long hours specifically for the event.

One volunteer in particular traveled over 12 hours from his home on Long Island, N.Y., in memory of his late wife.

John Cashin’s late wife Terry donated clothes to Christian Help, but was never able to make the trip to West Virginia for the drive. Cashin has been participating in the drive for the past three years to remember her.

“I look forward to coming here,” said Cashin. “It really makes you appreciate what you have and brings you down to Earth.”

A group of 14 from Marist High School in Atlanta, Ga., — including 12 children — made the trek to Kermit over the weekend to help with the event.

“Christmas is Christmas wherever you are,” said Father John Walls of Marist High School. “People have been so generous. We’re all overwhelmed.”

Ruth Kelly of Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, Ky., brought a moving truck full of toys. Kelly was a student of Sister Conlon when she taught English at Sacred Heart.

“You never see Christmas in the same light,” said Kelly. “It’s a heartwarming and touching experience.”

Christian Help plans for their annual giveaway year-round, accepting toys and donations throughout the year and then during November, the organization begins registering families for the drive.

“The response from the community is great,” said Director of Programs and Aid Sister Therese Carew. “The poorest of the poor are able to have Christmas and it all happens because of generosity from all over the country.”

Families receiving food and toys were all smiles during the event and praised the organization’s hospitality.

“Thank God they help out everyone they everyone they can,” said Mary Collins of Big Splint Hollow. “(Sister Brendan) is a sweet lady and I love her and Sister Therese with everything in me.”

“We would be hurting if not for them,” added Collins’ daughter, Mary Jane.

Christian Help is supported entirely by donations, mostly from churches and individuals.  It is not affiliated with any one church and serves anyone in need, regardless of race or religion–or lack of religion.

Considering the cost

20 Nov

A column that I wrote appears on the op-ed page of today’s Charleston Gazette.  It’s on the proposed AEP rate hike and how it will affect low-income families in southern West Virginia.  We serve hundreds of such families here at Christian Help, and thinking about how such a hike would affect them gives me a knot in my stomach. 

My column is available on the Gazette website here.

Christian Help makes The State Journal’s ’55 Good Things about West Virginia’ list!

21 May

Here’s something that has us both thrilled and humbled.  Every year, The State Journal, a major Charleston newspaper, publishes a special supplement that highlights what they call “55 Good Things about West Virginia.”  It’s always an inspiring collection of articles, providing more and more reasons to love this state. 

This year, we made the list!  The supplement, published May 14, includes a beautiful article about Christian Help and our sister agency, ABLE Families!  Writer Michael Hupp did a fine job depicting these two agencies and the way we carry out our respective missions.

Neither the overall list nor the article on us are currently available online.    But you can open a .pdf file of the article simply by clicking here

Our thanks to Michael and The State Journal for the gracious nod!

CH’s Board President Honored

22 Mar

Congratulations to Teresa McCune, the President of Christian Help’s Board of Directors.  Teresa, who is the Chief Public Defender of Mingo County, was honored just a few days ago by West Virginia University College of Law’s Women’s Law Caucus, as an Outstanding Woman in the Law

Teresa’s involvement with Christian Help is only one facet of her service to people in need here in Mingo County.  She’s also very involved in encouraging local kids to get to college and figuring out how to make it happen.  Going to college is a choice that is not always as obvious to teens in this region as it is in most other parts of the country.

We’re proud of Teresa, and proud that such an extraordinary person chooses to direct her energies toward the work we do as well.

Our Hometown Heroes!

5 Dec

On December 4, 2009, the Charleston-Huntington television station WSAZ NewsChannel 3 honored Sr. Brendan and also ABLE Families founder Sr. Janet Peterworth as Hometown Heroes.  We held a big surprise reception, with the TV crew present, at the Kermit Community Center.  Employees of the Mingo County Department of Health and Human Resources nominated the sisters for the honor. 

At the same event, the Mingo County Commissioners formally declared December 4 to be Sisters Day in Mingo County.  They expressed their appreciation for all the work of Srs. Brendan and Janet on behalf of people living in poverty in the county, and they made this appreciation tangible with twin gifts of $1,000 each for the two agencies.  

WSAZ NewsChannel3 will air the Hometown Heroes segment featuring the sisters on December 18, during their 5:30 PM news broadcast.  It will be repeated the following day, at 6 AM and 6 PM.

Read the Williamson Daily News article here.