12/27/09 — Helping Hands Mission takes care of 125 with Christmas food baskets

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Helping Hands Mission takes care of 125 with Christmas food baskets

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 27, 2009 1:50 AM

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Troy Herring

Here are some shots of the food drive over at Helping Hands Mission in Mount Olive. The pictures show Mrs. Lula Newkirk, center, Mrs. Mary Bellamy, left and Mr. David Sloan fill food boxes for community members in need.

MOUNT OLIVE -- People didn't seem to mind the cold last Monday morning as they waited outside the doors of Helping Hands United Mission while waiting for a basket of food to prepare a traditional Christmas meal.

The final ingredients, turkeys and fresh bread, had just been added to the 125 big plastic containers of food that morning. Volunteers helped carry the heavy containers to waiting vehicles. Other volunteers labeled containers that would be delivered to homebound recipients.

Jose Arriaga of Faison, his 6-year-old daughter, Jasmine, and his wife, Judith, were among those waiting for the doors to open at 10 a.m.

"This is fine, to do something for someone in need," he said as he picked up the container and his daughter a loaf of bread. "I read about it in the paper and went and asked and I found out it was here. I am going to ride by my sister-in-law's and let her know it is here so she can come down here and get some food.

Margie Swinson of Mount Olive called the giveaway a "blessing."

"I think it is wonderful. They have a loving heart. They care for people. They are just a blessing. They are a blessing to people, especially me," she said.

Ms. Swinson said the giveaway was particularly a godsend in light of the hard economic times.

Normally Helping Hands prepares only 100 baskets, but this year organizers said they knew the need would be greater than ever.

The tradition is a joint venture of Helping Hands United Mission and Area Churches in Action.

"We were helping ACIA when they were first doing it," Helping Hands United Mission founder Lula Newkirk said. "We would go up there and help, and if we include that, we have probably been doing this eight to 10 years. This is an annual thing as far as food coming in. This is a special project for Christmas boxes.

"Food is raised through the Helping Hands Food Pantry. We are a host site for the ACIA food pantry. All of the food from the local area churches comes here. ACIA had one (food pantry). We had a small food pantry, too. Then they asked me if we would take over the food pantry since their head lady was retiring. So we accepted and combined them."

Each of the 125 boxes prepared this year included a turkey, dressing, rice, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, apples, oranges, cookies, cake mix, bread and a variety of non-perishable food like corn and string beans.

"ACIA mostly donates the turkeys and we buy some," Mrs. Newkirk said.

"They (the recipients) hear about it and come in," Mrs. Newkirk said. "We ask for IDs and we have a short screening form. We go through the form in an attempt to ensure that the applicants are deserving. Just because you sign up it is not a guarantee. We want to help everybody, but it is impossible. We are looking for the homebound, the unemployed, the handicapped and the elderly on fixed income."

For Mrs. Newkirk, the project is a way to give back to a community that has helped her. It also is what led her to start Helping Hands United Mission 15 years ago in her husband's barn.

"It is rewarding internally, you know, because I have been there," she said. "I have been on the other side of the fence, where somebody had to help me. So it is really a blessing to know you can be a helping hand to somebody else."