Kyla, a single, stay-at-home mother of three, can be seen sporadically around Helping Hands with a big smile on her face and her children nearby.
She’s not a stranger, and the faces of volunteers and staff members are not unfamiliar.
“In a way, I guess you can say I consider them family,” Kyla says about the people who have helped her over the years.[singlepic id=882 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Kyla started coming to Helping Hands of St. Louis after she lost her job due to her pregnancy. In an effort to get back on her feet, Kyla moved in with her mother. Her search for a job has not been easy.
With goals to go back to school and one day become a Certified Nursing Assistant, Kyla says she appreciates all the help she has received from Helping Hands.
“The soup kitchen is nice because I don’t have to worry about making them [her children] lunch at home. I can just bring them down here, and we can eat lunch as a family. It helps with the cost of food as well.”
The staff have worked hard to help Kyla when she comes to the center for help.
“When she comes, we try to help her with pampers and baby milk,” says Vanessa, Helping Hands Meal and Volunteer Coordinator.
“Sometimes I’ll give her a little food just to keep her going until she gets her food stamps.”
“Ms. V (Vanessa), Paul and Sue, they all go out of their way. The three of them go out of their way, and that makes me feel good,” Kyla says.
Kyla’s children, ages 2, 3 and 4, all enjoy coming to Helping Hands as well.
“They like coming down here because they get to get out of the house and socialize with others. Everyone here loves my kids, and my kids get to come out and see people.”
“I would like to say thank you to the people who make this possible,” she says with a smile.
“Their generosity tells me that there are still good people out here willing to help.”
Bishop Daniel E. Thomas and volunteers from several area churches served a Christmas meal to 370 people at Helping Hands of St. Louis on December 23.
Bishop Thomas read the account of Christ’s birth from Luke’s Gospel before blessing the food. Guests were invited to sit down while volunteers served them a meal of ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and desserts.
“It means a lot,” said Judy as her three-year-old daughter Hailey enjoyed a large spoonful of mashed potatoes. Judy said her family sometimes needs help with food, and she is grateful for what is offered at Helping Hands.
Mr. Jones is another guest who comes on a regular basis for lunches. He plays piano for worship at his church and said his faith is helping him through hard times. “No one is going to be perfect, but we strive to be better … that’s why God sent Jesus and why He is the reason for the season.”
Mr. Jones appreciates the food and fellowship he finds at Helping Hands, describing the program as “God’s love being shared.”
The daily meals could not be possible without the help of dedicated volunteers. Cheryl Sheffer, her son, John, and his children were all on hand to help serve the Christmas meal. Both Cheryl and John volunteer at Helping Hands on a regular basis with their churches.
“I love these people,” Cheryl said. “I always feel good after I’m here. I am dead tired when I leave, but it’s a good tired.”
“When you live in the suburbs, you tend to get comfortable with your life,” John added. “It’s good to be here with the people and share their burdens.”
In interviews with WNWO and WTOL, Bishop Thomas said he wanted to be part of serving the Christmas meal at Helping Hands because Jesus came as a poor infant in a stable. As much as the poor need food and drink, what they need is the joy that comes from Jesus, he said.
Click here to learn more about Helping Hands of St. Louis.
The hands at Helping Hands were busy as volunteers served Thanksgiving lunch to 500 people in need of a meal for the holidays. Lunch included turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, dressing, mixed vegetables and dessert.
The occasion brought hope to David and his nephew Shaun who were first time visitors to Helping Hands. The holiday lunch was their first holiday meal after losing their landscaping business, income and car over the summer.
“When we walked in today, we were amazed at how many people who are in the same position as we are,” says David.[singlepic id=832 w=250 h=187.5 float=right]
“We had no food and my neighbor told us about this place. Thank You. We never thought we would be in this position. We truly would not be here if we didn’t have this option.”
For many Helping Hands clients, lunch was more than just another meal. This was their opportunity to spend the holidays with people they called family.
“We are very thankful for this place,” says Rhonda, Jodi and Dino all who are not related but have formed close relationships since coming to Helping Hands over the years. “This is our family right here,” says Dino.
“I think that Thanksgiving lunch is a great thing that they’re doing,” says Angel. “It give people a hot meal to eat on cold days.”
“I come because I like this place, and I like the people. There are a lot of good reasons for coming to here. Not just the food, it’s the people. There are good people who are here to help,” she adds.
“It gives you a chance to stretch your food at home,” says Dennis, a regular to Helping Hands. “When you run out of food at home, you can come here to get a meal.”
Today, hundreds of Toledo residents lined up for a serving of Little Caesars pizza at Helping Hands of St. Louis. The pizza was prepared and cooked inside a semi-truck called the “Little Caesars Love Kitchen,” which was parked outside the center’s soup kitchen doors.
The Little Caesars Love Kitchen is a pizza kitchen on wheels that “travels across the continental United States and Canada meeting the needs of the hungry, the homeless and disaster survivors,” according to the company’s website. Employees from Little Caesars Pizza helped prepare and cook pizzas for an estimated 300 guests. All food and services were donated by Little Caesars Pizza.
After the pizzas were baked inside the truck’s kitchen, they were delivered to the Helping Hands’ kitchen and served to a long line of excited people. The clients at Helping Hands loved every slice. Waves of appreciations and thank yous could be heard from satisfied individuals within the dining hall.
“It’s a really good thing that they did here today,” said one Helping Hands regular. “Everything was really good.”
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Over seventy children, parents and volunteers attended the Halloween Party at Helping Hands of St. Louis. Adding their own spin to trick or treating, people throughout the East Toledo community had a great time dressing up in costumes and getting together for the event. Candy, graciously donated by community members, was passed around as the sounds of children laughing could be heard throughout the center. There were arts and crafts activities, food, face painting and a huge inflatable green Frankenstein for families to take pictures and create memories.
Nov. 4, 2014—TOLEDO—Helping Hands of St. Louis is asking the community for donations of frozen turkeys, boneless hams, and other holiday food to serve and distribute for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The East Toledo soup kitchen expects to serve 500 people for a Thanksgiving lunch and to distribute 200 frozen turkeys to families and individuals in need. Helping Hands will provide about 200 Christmas food baskets to families to make it possible for families to cook and enjoy their holiday meal together at home.
Meat, boxed stuffing, canned sweet potatoes, canned cranberry sauce, eggs, milk and fresh fruit are requested by Nov. 19 for Thanksgiving and by Dec. 15 for Christmas.
Donations may be delivered between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at Helping Hands’ soup kitchen at 443 Sixth St., Toledo. To arrange for a different delivery time, please call Paul Cook at 419-691-0613, ext. 2.
Volunteers at Helping Hands dedicate their time and efforts to clothe many struck by hard times
In the neatly organized aisles of the old St. Louis church in East Toledo, clients look through long racks of clothes sorted by size, gender and category.
“We are a free store,” says Joan Schroeder, Helping Hands of St. Louis Clothing Center volunteer. “The concept of a free store is everyone gives and everyone gets.”
“People when they come in here, they are treat with respected,” says Anita Plantz, volunteer and founder of the Clothing Center.
All items are donated by community members and are closely inspected by volunteers before put on the racks. The Clothing Center helps an average of 400 people each month.
Stephen and his wife have been going for about a year.
“The center helps a lot,” he says. “I had a part-time job working banquets, and I needed black pants and white shirts. I was able to get them here so that I could be employed. Clothes are expensive these days, and I needed clothes to work.”
It’s an everyday struggle the volunteers hear too often ‒ not having enough money to purchase clothes for common life events.
“It’s amazing how many clients come in for church, job interview, or funeral clothes,” Joan says.
Sorting the Sanctuary
After St. Louis church closed in 2005, the sanctuary was used as a storage center for donations to Helping Hands’ food pantry and soup kitchen.
Anita had a dream of turning the closed church into a space for helping others. In January 2011, plans to turn the church into a clothing center were implemented. Request for help was sent throughout parishes in Lucas County. Before long, several volunteers and youth groups were there to help out.
“My daughter’s mission group came in and put up the pantry wall,” says Anita pointing at a large wall divider that separates the food storage from the clothing area.
“The Catholic Heart Workcamp student volunteers came in early that summer, and they built the clothing racks and then they started sorting clothes,” Joan remembers.
By July 2011, the Clothing Center was ready to open its doors to the East Toledo community. Business was slow at first, but in a few short weeks, traffic started to pick up just by word of mouth.
“The streets got the word around pretty quickly,” Joan says.
“We get people from all over the city,” says Anita. “Single homeless men, family men, single moms with kids, even elderly people.”
“It’s the talk around downtown,” says Mryon, a single man who came in from the streets for a few items and a meal from the soup kitchen.
“It’s very busy, but everyone is very polite and respectful. We rarely have an issue,” says Anita.
Clothing the Heart and Soul
The impact of the Helping Hands of St. Louis Clothing Center goes far beyond just a new wardrobe for customers.
“We have a few of our shoppers who come in and volunteer,” Joan says. “People want to work as a way to give back.”
“The service they provide helps a lot of people in the community. I really appreciate it, and I am sure a lot of other people appreciate it, too,” Stephen says.
For volunteers, it’s more than a job. It’s a calling that was placed in their hearts.
“I’m here because I think of Matthew 25, and I just get a lot good feelings from this place,” says Anita. “I love our clients. It’s just something we’re supposed to do.”
On Saturday, August 2, Helping Hands of St. Louis held its 11th Annual Golf Outing Fundraiser. The day was filled with laughter and comradery as 18 teams of four played on the beautiful greens at Bedford Hills Golf Club in Temperance, Michigan.
The golf tournament included 18 holes of golf, a power cart, beverage tickets and a chicken and New York strip steak dinner. Winners of the tournament and raffles received prizes at the end of the day.
The event raised $3,000 for services provided at Helping Hands. The outreach center includes a soup kitchen, food pantry and clothing center. Additional services include hygiene products, homeless kits and hot showers.
It’s an exciting day for the Diocese of Toledo. Today, it was announced that Pope Francis appointed Most Reverend Daniel E. Thomas as the eighth Bishop of Toledo. “What a blessing to now call you my family of faith and to call Ohio my home,” said Bishop Thomas at a morning press conference with Diocesan and Catholic Charities staff.
Bishop Thomas requested to spend his lunch at Catholic Charities’ Helping Hands of St. Louis to follow the example of Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis has asked every bishop to be who he himself is modeling – and that is to model Jesus Christ,” Bishop Thomas said at the press conference. “It’s that very famous phrase that Pope Francis says, ‘The priest should have the smell of the sheep.’ ”
During his visit at Helping Hands, Bishop Thomas met with clients and volunteers in our clothing center, food pantry and soup kitchen. He joined a group of volunteers from St. John XXIII parish to serve people in line at the soup kitchen. In an apron and ready to serve, he greeted each person and asked for their names. He spent time listening and answering questions from the people as he scooped a serving of the day’s meal on their meal plates.
Bishop Thomas also modeled Pope Francis in asking for prayers at the beginning of his ministry. “I beg your prayers that I may be a faithful, humble, holy and ardent bishop for Toledo, and that I may spend myself for love of souls in teaching, governing and sanctifying in the name of Jesus for the sake of His Church,” Bishop Thomas said at the morning press conference.
Diocesan Administrator Rev. Charles Ritter spoke on behalf of the Diocese in welcoming the new bishop to Toledo. “I and the entire diocese are delighted to welcome Bishop Thomas. We ask for God’s blessings for him and for the people of the Diocese of Toledo as he assumes the office of chief shepherd of this local church,” he said.
Bishop Thomas was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended Catholic elementary and high schools. Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 18, 1985, he was first assigned as a Parochial Vicar at Saint Joseph Parish in Aston, Pennsylvania. In 2006, he was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, assisting the Archbishop with pastoral responsibilities and administrative duties at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center.
Clip, Snip and Save. This summer, Helping Hands held it first Coupon Challenge. The Coupon Challenge was an answer to a growing problem for many families in the East Toledo community. Many Helping Hands clients live on fixed and/or limited incomes and struggle to buy groceries. Cuts in food stamps and increasing food prices have made it even more challenging.
“The contest was a way to help people find ways to stretch their grocery and food stamp dollars,” says Linda Kraft, Catholic Charities Crisis Navigator and organizer of the Coupon Challenge. “A lot of people didn’t even know how to use coupons before the contest.”
Participants collectively saved over $573.90 in the two-month contest.
The challenge was open to all Helping Hands clients. Participants brought in their receipts to show how much they saved using coupons.
Participants were free to use their own coupons or choose them from the “Coupon Book,” which was kept full throughout the contest.
“All of the coupons are organized by category,” says Kathy, a Helping Hands volunteer. “It was great to see how much people were able to save after they used them.”
There were two winners of the challenge: Debbie, who saved the most with $200, and Sue, who won the general drawing for participation. The ladies each received a $25 Meijer’s gift card.
Now that the contest is over, staff are pleased to see clients continue to find ways to save on groceries.
“People continue to look at the coupon books,” Linda says. “I have people asking me if we will do it again!”
Coupon donations may be delivered to Linda Kraft at 1933 Spielbush Ave., Toledo, Ohio 43604.