I Visited Helping Hand of Hope
By Carla Williams
When men and women come into the office of Helping Hand of Hope in Elizabethtown, they’re almost always a little desperate. If they are there, something terrible is happening. Their utilities are overdue. Their landlord is threatening eviction. Their kids don’t have beds. Or, maybe, they’re just really hungry.
The staff and volunteers at Helping Hand of Hope have seen it all as they’ve served some of Hardin County’s most vulnerable citizens. They help in so many ways—job programs, emergency assistance, food boxes, new beds, Christmas generosity, and endlessly more.
Helping Hand of Hope exists to offer help and hope by providing compassionate service and support to meet emergency needs and provide partnerships to enable self-sustaining lifestyles. They accomplish this goal through grants and local partnerships with non-profits, churches, and generous individuals.
Dignity and Empowerment
There was a recurring theme throughout my day at Helping Hand of Hope. In everything they do, they’re constantly looking for ways to offer a hand up, and not just a hand out. While everyone gets knocked down from time to time, Helping Hand of Hope wants to employ methods that help people stand up, dust off, and stand stronger the next time. They’d love to see everyone who comes through their ministry connected with a local church and thriving personally, socially, and spiritually.
One of the ways they’re doing this is in how they approach Christmas. For years, Helping Hand of Hope had a program where families could adopt vulnerable kids and provide them with gifts, but last year they flipped the model. Specially identified families were invited to a local church, and while the kids had a fabulous Christmas program, the parents were able to choose numerous toys for just $10 per child. In this new program, the kids received gifts they’ll love, and the parents experienced the love of a local church and had the honor of providing for their families.
Helping Hand of Hope is also using this idea to provide beds for children in the community. The ministry works with the school system to identify children who are currently sleeping on the floor or a couch. For a minimal fee, Helping Hand of Hope will provide new bed frames, mattresses, linens, and pillows for all children in the household. They’ll also deliver and install the beds. In this small way, parents can provide for their children and the kids receive a sense of ownership and the vital sleep they need to thrive. Since this program launched earlier this year, Helping Hand of Hope has already provided almost 70 beds.
And for people struggling to find employment, Helping Hand of Hope is a strong advocate. They have a jobs program to match applicants with local businesses, even providing things like steel-toed boots or gas vouchers for the drive before paychecks start arriving. Through their program, every day they encourage, equip, and sustain men and women who are working hard to provide for their families.
Even with the food distribution, the Helping Hand of Hope team is evaluating how to use the process in a way that gives the client more control over their choices. Instead of handing them a pre-packaged box of miscellaneous foods once a month, the team is hoping to create more of a shopper experience where each family can choose the foods that match their needs and diet.
Calm and Kind
The day I visited Helping Hand of Hope was, quite honestly, chaos. Phone calls interrupted every conversation. A flood of people came through the doors, each needing something different and urgent. Emotions were flowing and the staff were all balancing countless tasks and relationships at once. Even I could feel the stress of the weight from that day.
But each person on staff was consistently kind and calm. Every interruption was met with patience and compassion. In the perfect storm of emotions, frustration, hopelessness, weariness, and fear, the Helping Hand of Hope staff members were an anchor of serenity. I watched in amazement as each tightly-wound client relaxed into relief simply from a gentle and unrattled interaction with the staff.
Though the staff spends their day hearing endless stories of hardship and woe, they know the people God brings to them are precious and valuable in His sight. So, they treat each person with dignity and respect, and they work tirelessly to help each one.
I sat in with one of the clients while she met with Sandy, a case manager for Helping Hand of Hope. The client was a hard-working certified nursing assistant who was a single mother to a teenaged son. Ongoing car trouble had affected her hours at work, and her water had been turned off four days before. She had a paycheck coming in that could cover the bill, but she wouldn’t get it before the water company closed for the long holiday weekend. She couldn’t cook, clean, or bathe at home, and she didn’t know where to turn.
While Sandy was on hold with the water company, she used that opportunity to encourage and celebrate this woman who was doing everything in her power to provide for her son. She worked hard, loved her patients, and sacrificed daily, but she just kept getting knocked down. When Sandy had paid the outstanding balance and received confirmation that the water would be back on later that day, the client sobbed in relief. We all held hands and prayed together, thanking God for His mercy toward each of us.
As the client was leaving, Sandy commented that she believed the woman could start her own home-health nursing agency one day. The client’s eyes lit up with excitement. It was as if no one had ever believed in her before or told her she was strong, capable, intelligent, and compassionate—all gifts God had clearly given her. She walked out of the building with the promise of running water and the reassurance that she was valuable and made with a purpose. She didn’t just get a bandage for an emergency, she received a spark of hope for her future.
As we talked between appointments, phone calls, food distribution, and drop-in emergencies, it was abundantly clear how much the staff at Helping Hand of Hope cares about the people they’re privileged to serve. They’ve all gone above and beyond to help their clients thrive. The staff genuinely loves their clients. It’s obvious in every conversation, interaction, and reflection.
There are great ideas for the future of Helping Hand of Hope. The staff dreams of more involvement in the everyday lives of their clients through training and equipping before the point of crisis. They want to see God change the trajectories of people’s lives and not simply meet their immediate needs.
Right now, one of the obstacles Helping Hand of Hope faces is a viewpoint that is often misguided and unkind toward the vulnerable families in their communities. The team would love to expand that understanding in churches, local non-profits, and with individuals. Whether it’s at their annual gala in November or through informal conversations, they’re always ready to explain the need and how Helping Hand of Hope is reaching a variety of struggling people in Hardin County.
When men and women come into the office at Helping Hand of Hope, they’re almost always a little desperate. But then they encounter the Christlike love of the staff and volunteers, and that makes all the difference.