Helping Hands: Program gives away basic items of daily living

WENDY STIVER/THE EXPRESS Wendy Seyler, Helping Hands site coordinator, stocks shelves Thursday with help from Kelly Olmstead, left, staff coordinator for the non-profit organization. Helping Hands gives out free hygiene and cleaning supplies twice a month, from a room inside United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lock Haven.

LOCK HAVEN — Can’t people get a break? Working one or more jobs at minimum wage won’t pay all the bills for many families. Senior citizens on fixed incomes often run out of money before they run out of month.

Some folks qualify for food stamps, but that program doesn’t cover everything, either. What about soap or a toothbrush?

Churches do what they can. There are several programs right here in this area trying to fill the gaps for people who need an extra little boost.

Helping Hands is one such program.

Twice a month, Helping Hands opens its room at United Evangelical Lutheran Church and gives away shampoo, bath soap, toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, cleaning items, detergent. The volunteers stock the shelves with items that families and individuals cannot purchase with food stamps but still need for daily living.

The church is at the corner of First and West Church streets, across from Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Helping Hands can be found through the side door of the church, off First Street. Participants go down the stairs to the basement social hall where they register, receive a number, and wait their turn to visit the shelves for free hygiene and cleaning supplies.

Helping Hands is open the first Wednesday of the month from 9 to 11 a.m., and the third Wednesday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m.

The next date is Sept. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Participants may come every month — and on both dates of the month, if they need to. Participants who visit often may pick up cleaning supplies, laundry supplies and certain other items just once a month. Many of the other things are given with no such restriction, however.

Wendy Seyler is the site coordinator, and she and staff coordinator Kelly Olmstead work the inventory and strive to offer seasonal items when they can.

Because of Dollar Tree’s generosity, they were able to offer school supplies recently.

This month, they have over-the-counter allergy relief products, and at Christmastime, they always try to have a gift for each participant.

Currently, Helping Hands needs donations of baby diapers in sizes 4, 5 and 6, as well as shower gel, body wash, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies.

Hygienic wipes, both for babies and adults, are always needed, Seyler said.

To help out, give her a call at 570-502-0683 or drop off a donation at the church office. The office is just inside the First Street door and is open weekdays from 8 to 11 a.m.

“We will take any kind of donation that people can use,” Seyler said.

The program cannot accept open bottles. If you purchase a product, then try it once and decide you don’t like it, you probably can’t donate it to Helping Hands. Anything that needs to be frozen or refrigerated can’t be accepted, either.

But open packs of diapers are welcome.

“I can always use volunteers, too” Seyler said.

Helping Hands requires three hours of volunteer service a year from each participant — just three hours. Participants may volunteer with the program while they are waiting for a turn at the shelves, or help during a benefit. Fundraisers include church dinners, and Seyler coordinates specific dates when volunteers may ask the public for donations in front of Dollar General in the Millbrook Plaza.

Another volunteer opportunity is the annual coat drive at United Lutheran, which is held in November and run by Olmstead.

One participant bakes and provides baked goods, Seyler said. Another made sure Santa was on hand for free photo-taking at Christmastime.

Volunteers are welcome, whether they are participants or just members of the community who would like to help. Taylor Seyler, Cathy Andrus, Shannon Askins and Duke Glossner are among those who can always be counted on when needed.

Seyler is hoping to hear from high school seniors looking for a senior project — “We love them!” she said.

Helping Hands started in 2001. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization associated with the local church. At first, it was affiliated with Bountiful Blessings, but the local group has since left that program and changed its name to Helping Hands.

Now the volunteers have to find supplies and donations themselves.

“We are all on our own,” Seyler said. “Sometimes it’s hard, trying to make sure we have enough dish detergent, for one thing.”

She added, “We like to find friends who can help.”

A main fundraiser is the Election Day ham and bean soup sale at the church. Helping Hands now runs it and benefits from the proceeds, and church members help by providing money and baked goods.

Donations have come from local businesses, the YMCA Day Care which rents rooms at the church, Lock Haven Catholic School, and Holy Spirit Parish. State Rep. Mike Hanna Sr. has coordinated donations from First Quality.

Recently, an individual gave adult diapers, a contribution that Seyler described as “really awesome.”

Seyler said she is grateful to Rep. Hanna, to all the donors whether regular or one-time givers, and to the Clinton County Community Foundation for a grant this year.

“If not for the Foundation, our shelves would not be stocked as they are now,” Seyler said.

When entering the room for the first time, a participant may be pleasantly surprised at all the items available in the relatively small space.

Bibles also are available, free to any participant who would like to own a copy of the Good Book.

The program serves important segments of the community, our neighbors who are in need of simple, basic things, and the coordinators are well aware of that fact.

“Some will cry, they are so grateful,” Olmstead said.

Families and individuals must show a photo I.D. with their complete current address when registering. Families with babies and preschoolers 3 years old and younger who need baby supplies must provide a photo copy of the child’s birth certificate, adoption certificate, or proof of legal guardianship.

Seyler likes to play children’s songs from Camp Mt. Luther to set the tone when participants arrive.

Olmstead said, “We always have coffee and juice, and we try to have a little something else” like a home-baked treat while people are registering and waiting.

Some will be new faces and others will be welcomed as regular participants.

She added, “Through this program, people have become friends.”

IFYOUGO

- WHAT: Free hygiene and

cleaning supplies

- WHEN: First Wednesday of the month, 9-11 a.m.; third Wednesday of the month, 6-8 p.m.

- WHERE: United Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lock Haven

- More Info: Wendy Seyler, 570-502-0683

COMMENTS