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Our crew

13 Apr

Because a large donation of new shirts recently came through our doors, Sr. Therese was able to arrange for the printing of names and Christian Help logos on several of them at very little expense. We got a shirt for each of the staff and volunteers in our clothing store. Not everyone was available for the impromtu photo, but here’s a bunch of our crew.

Going left to right, that’s Tiffany Newsome, Minne Fitchpatrick, me, Art Spurlock, Kathy Spurlock, Maggie Messer, Mina Hammond, and Sr. Therese Carew.

Why they deserve it

25 Mar

We do this work here at Christian Help because people need the help and they deserve the help.  But it’s very easy to imagine someone responding to that statement by challenging it: “Why do they deserve it?  They got themselves into the situation they’re in now, and they can get themselves out of it.”

Why do they deserve it?

Because they’re human beings.  They don’t want their poverty any more than you or I would want it.

So why don’t they do something about it themselves?

Many can’t.  First of all, there are the disabled and chronically unhealthy.  Did you know that health statistics here in southern West Virginia are among the worst in the entire United States?  Did you know there are many places in this region, in this very county, where safe drinking water is difficult to find?  Of course, poverty and poor health are intimately connected, so where there’s lots of poverty, there’s lots of poor health, and that means lots of people for whom it’s very hard or impossible to work steadily. 

But there are issues beyond poor health and disability.  Central Appalachia is a place with few opportunities for quality education, personal development, and decent work, and that has been the case for many decades.  Many people who live here have received a raw deal from American society, the American economy, American politics, and life itself.  No, they’re not the only poor people in the country, but poverty is concentrated here unlike few other places in our nation. 

Again and again, we hear the comments from the student groups who come here to visit and serve: These are the conditions of a third-world nation.  How could this be happening in America? 

Many of them could do something about their situations, if they were living in another place, in a different situation, or had a different set of experiences that has brought them to where they are now.

Many, many people here grow up in families where academic achievement is understood as having little value, where an expectation of going to college, even an option of going to college, is completely absent.  Sadly, setting a kid’s sights on success and on preparation for college is often not a priority even in some schools in our region.    

Another element in this mix:  The culture of the region is highly, intensely family centered.  Many people, even many young people, couldn’t conceive of moving elsewhere for better opportunities.  Did you know that burying deceased loved ones on one’s own property is a common practice here?  Show me a person whose family is buried on their own land, and I’ll show you someone who has no intention of going anywhere, and would understandably find it very hard to, even if they wanted to. 

Are these things that could be overcome?  Could someone succeed and thrive in life despite these facts, if they really wanted to?  Yes, they could.  But shouldn’t modest success, and even basic survival, be accessible to more than just the very strongest, most resilient, and most determined among us? 

Are there deadbeats and lazy people among those who are poor?  There sure are.  I even suppose that they’re occasionally recieving help from Christian Help.  But as our founder Sr. Brendan Conlon often says, The only way to be sure we’re never taken advantage of by clients is never to help anybody.  If we end up helping a few lazy people in order to relieve some burdens of people who really are in need of help that they couldn’t get any other way, I can live with that.

Our youngest client

11 Mar

That’s 3-week-old Kaylee in Sr. Therese’s arms, and standing to the right are Kaylee’s mom Rhoda and grandmother Monica. The family are good friends here at Christian Help, often stopping in to shop in our free clothing store.

Sr. Therese enjoyed the opportunity to hold Kaylee for the first time yesterday. The joy of meeting her was increased by the fact that we’ve been helping keep Kaylee warm in the womb by providing some clothing for her mom during her pregnancy. We’ve also been getting Kaylee ready for the world by beginning to gather baby clothes and other infant needs long before she actually arrived.

We welcome Kaylee to the world, and at the same time ask all our friends and supporters for prayers for her and for all the people we serve.

A lot of people served, a lot of love given!

17 Feb

At tonight’s meeting  of the Christian Help board of directors, I’ll present some 2010 year-in-review figures that offer a helpful picture of  the service we provided through the year.   I’ll share them with you, too.  As you can see, there’s a lot of good going on here!

Numbers of clients helped through Direct Aid (financial assistance):

Electric bills     674

Natural gas bills     7

Other home heating fuels     9

Water bills     87

Rent     29

Medicine     90

Glasses     31

Eye exams     14

Dental     127

Gasoline     1,332

Auto repairs     70

Home repairs     79

Clothing, personal, household, etc     118

Total Direct Aid clients     2,753

Food pantry clients

Households served           2,757

Individuals served           5,068

Transit figures

Passenger trips         10,499

Miles of service       102,496

Total clients signed in at front desk through the year     8,001

(figure includes visits to clothing store, food pantry, furniture warehouse, burn-out room, and Sr. Therese’s office—note: some don’t bother to sign in)

Remember, the community of Kermit that we call home has an official population of about 200.  Clearly we’re serve a population far beond the borders of the town.

Most of this work happens through donations from people like you.  Please consider making a gift today, either by mail (Christian Help, P.O. Box 1257, Kermit, WV 25674), or by clicking the DONATE NOW button in the sidebar on the right.  Thanks for considering it!

Feeding Mingo County

16 Feb

Here are some photos of a recent delivery of food to our pantry here at Christian Help.  That’s Sr. Therese, our director of aid, in the denim jacket, keeping things running smoothly.  Some of the other folks are our staff, and many others are local volounteers who generously show up to help unload when we get big deliveries like this.

The food that we stock in our pantry mostly comes through helpful collaborations with Huntington Food Bank and the national organization Feeding America.  We receive a delivery once a month, and all of the food that comes is distributed to families living in poverty here in Mingo County. 

Important Support for Christian Help Programs

1 Nov

Today I received notification that Christian Help has been awarded two grants from Americans Helping Americans, an extraordinary organization working to eliminate poverty and build communities in many areas of the country.  

This important funding will include $10,000 to help provide dental care for the people we serve, and $5,000 for utility assistance.  That’s going to help a lot of low-income people in northern Mingo County have a great-looking smile, and (if they need something to smile about) also keep their homes well-heated this winter.  

Our warm thanks to Americans Helping Americans.  Christian Help has collaborated with this organization in the past, and we enjoy a good working relationship with their staff.

Chase away the chill this winter

21 Oct

An important letter went into the mail to all Christian Help supporters a few days ago.  Here’s what is said:

Dear friend of Christian Help,

One of my first significant decisions as the new director of Christian Help last fall turned out to be a great one – unfortunately, I was so new at the time that I can’t even pretend it was anything but a lucky call.

I was settling into my new office, and Sr. Brendan was just dipping her toe into retirement. I knew it would be important to honor her for her work, and to do it in a way that reflected her own personality and ministry.  And so, you’ll remember, the Sr. Brendan Conlon Warm Hearts, Warm Homes Fund was born – a special fund to gather some extra money to help pay for the heating bills of local families in need.

You responded with moving generosity.  In the weeks and months that followed, we raised over $35,000 for that fund.  What a beautiful expression of your regard for Sr. Brendan and your investment in the ministry of Christian Help of Mingo County. 

And then it hit: the double whammy of a long, frigid winter and sharply increased utility rates for the people of this region.  It turned out to be more than a great many here could handle.  Here at Christian Help, we were hit far more requests for relief for home heating bills than we expected.  And thanks to you, we were ready to help. We provided significant help for far more people than we might otherwise have been able to. 

To be exact, we provided help to 254 households with money from this fund.  Thank you!

Now here we are, a year later.  The money you gave has been well used.  Of course, the need remains in many ways, and another winter approaches.  I’m writing today to ask you to replenish the Sr. Brendan Conlon Warm Hearts, Warm Homes Fund.  

Would you make a donation today to this important and worthy fund?  I certainly appreciate your willingness to consider it.   (Note that in the interests of responsible stewardship of the money you contribute, any amount over $28,000 that is raised through this year’s appeal will be directed to some other worthy need here at Christian Help – for example, for home repairs for clients in need, gasoline for our transit vans, or paying our own electric bills.)

By the way, speaking of Sr. Brendan, I want to tell you that she’s doing very well – though her lifestyle  these days is not what most people would call retirement!  She helps out frequently here at Christian Help, and she’s very involved in a variety of other activities and interests in the community.  I’d love the chance to tell her again this year about a remarkable response to this appeal for the fund named in her honor.

Sincerely in Christ,

Barry M. Hudock

Executive Director

If you would like to make a gift to Christian Help, you can do it online, safely and quickly, by clicking here.  I join you in making my own personal gift to the fund, because I know the people who will benefit from the gift, and I know the need is real.  Thank you for considering it.