SANDI PULLEN BEASON: Helping Hands provides food, clothing to needy

In an article that ran Aug. 8, I listed five agencies that receive grant funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide food and other necessities to people in need. In that story, I detailed the services each agency provided with their grant money and tried to show how each filled a gap in the lives of folks who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

Because we live in a prosperous region, and because homeless and hungry people aren't right in our faces, most people don't look closely enough to realize just how many people need the assistance of The Salvation Army, Shelter and Assistance in Family Emergencies, Lift Inc., F.A.I.T.H. Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels.

There is one other agency in Tupelo that, because it does not receive the FEMA money, I did not list. The folks at Helping Hands Food Pantry and Clothes Closet, started by First United Methodist Church, were quick to let me know that they were not included.

Helping Hands does good work, and people should know it is here, they said.

According to volunteer Jim Westbrook, Helping Hands provides food and clothing to more than 130 families per week. It is financially supported and staffed with volunteers from many other local churches, including First Methodist, Lawndale Presbyterian, Calvary Baptist, St. James Catholic and The Orchard United Methodist, to name a few.

“Helping Hands last Saturday served 147 families,” said the Rev. Jeff Pruett, associate pastor at First UMC. “This is a ministry for Lee County. First Methodist Church is the primary financial supporter. It puts about $40,000 a year into providing food purchased every week. Other churches make financial contributions and folks come together each week and help carry out this ministry that makes a profound impact.”

The agency is accepting seasonal clothing, household items and nonperishable foods.

“We buy peanut butter, cereal, flour, meal, oil, diapers and hygiene items,” Pruett said. “We're not going to turn away anything that helps someone have a good quality meal. It's a thing that everyone can be a part of.”

Pruett said he is working with the Boy Scouts and North Mississippi Medical Center on a food drive to be held countywide in February called “Scouting for Food.” Smaller church congregations can't fund a food pantry, he said, but they can do food drives.

“It's in the spirit in which it is given,” Pruett said. “The Lord sees it and it's multiplied and blessed. This has existed for six or seven years, but people are just beginning to realize this ministry is here. We've not always done a good job of communicating that anyone can be part of it.”

Sandi Pullen Beason is a staff writer for the Daily Journal. You can reach her at sandi.pullen@djournal.com. You may also contact Pruett at 690-8100, or jpruett@fumctupelo.com