HURON – No one really knows when circumstances might change and they and their families need a helping hand.
But one of the places in Huron that offers that kind of support has been doing it now for 15 years.
It’s called Helping Hands Thrift Shop, and countless numbers of families have benefited.
By selling clothing and other household items at very low prices, it raises the funds needed to stock its food pantry, a godsend to so many hungry people in the community and surrounding area.
“There are some people who are holding down two or three jobs and only come when there’s some emergency,” said Sue Gose, one of the volunteers who have been there since the doors first opened.
“The kids get sick, the car breaks down, then they can’t quite make it, so then they come,” she said.
“We’ve got people that haven’t been here for two years, but then they show up when there’s a need,” Gose said. “We also have people that come every month.”
Helping Hands began as a prison ministry, said volunteer Barb Blaedorn.
“It was for folks that were transitioning out of prison,” she said. “They could come here and get help with clothing and stuff.”
The nonprofit organization, run by a board of directors, rents a storefront west of Taco John’s at the junction of Highways 14/37.
The thrift shop frequently is overflowing with donated clothing for all ages.
It has blankets and shoes, dishes, lamps, kids games, books and CDs. There’s even an old hair dryer and chair that came from a salon.
Shop hours are 12 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Blaedorn said the organization began getting financial support from United Way Heartland Region about four years ago. It also receives generous donations from local residents. It gets some commodities, and it buys from Feeding South Dakota.
“Our biggest need right now is money, or canned vegetables, canned fruit, nonperishable stuff for the pantry,” she said.
To stock the pantry shelves, Gose also buys food in volume when it’s on sale.
There’s clearly a need.
Last week, Helping Hands fed 64 families. In August, it extended help to more than 600 people.
“You will see when they walk in the door and the kids grab a bag of buns and start eating them right out of the package that you know they’re hungry,” Gose said.
As the holidays approach, donations of turkeys will hopefully fill the freezers. Food donated to the Salvation Army by Walmart is also shared with Helping Hands.
Blaedorn said the organization accepts produce from local gardeners and meat like venison from hunters.
Churches also donate food and Sunday school children bring in boxes of cereal to share.
People who qualify for food stamps get help that way, but they can’t purchase household and personal needs like shampoo and dishwashing soap. And food costs so much more than it did when Helping Hands started in 2002, Blaedorn said.
Like the other volunteers, she spends a few afternoons a week at the thrift shop.
It’s rewarding work, and she loves to see the excited faces of the little children when given a toy.
Volunteers like Velda Zeeck and Irene Rearick sort clothing as it comes in the back door. When they started, they didn’t know each other. Now they’re the best of friends. Kristin Kirschenmann is another dedicated volunteer.
Each goes home at night knowing they are there for a lot of people in need because life’s unforeseen circumstances got in the way.
“We try to do something to help people, and it’s fun,” Blaedorn said.
Irene Rearick, left, and Velda Zeeck met and became good friends when Rearick began volunteering at the Helping Hands Thrift Shop in Huron. Zeeck has volunteered for the last nine years and Rearick for the past seven years.
Next, volunteer Kristin Kirschenmann hangs clothes on a rack at the Helping Hands Thrift Shop, located at the junction of Highways 14/37 west of Taco John’s in Huron.
Photos by Roger Larsen of the Plainsman