A food pantry’s compassion helps its community

A food pantry’s compassion helps its community

December 6, 2021 in Harvest Time Newsletter

Whether it’s a family of twelve, an elderly widow, or a homeless person, Helping Hands Ministry is there to serve its hungry neighbors.

Based in Eagle Rock, MO, Helping Hands provides groceries to approximately fifty families each month. Executive Director, Rita Stringer, and her husband Butch, were among the first people to open the food pantry in 2009. Over the years, the volunteers and clients have become like family.

Recently, Rita noticed that one of their clients, an elderly gentleman who had lost his wife, was not selecting the same groceries that he typically chose. Knowing he struggled to pay his monthly bills, Rita inquired, and learned that his refrigerator had stopped working. He was only getting items that would fit in a small cooler. To save money, the gentleman had also started living in just his kitchen and living room, closing off the rest of the house to conserve heat. With each visit to Helping Hands, he expresses gratitude, always saying, “Thank you, kindly,” as he leaves.

Housed in a former one-room schoolhouse, what Helping Hands lacks in space, they make up for in heart. Both natives to the area, Rita and Butch started the ministry to serve Barry County after retirement. Butch, coming from a nearly four-decade long career with MoDOT, and Rita, from thirty years with Justin Boots Factory in Cassville, the pair was used to hard work. Running a food pantry is no exception, but the husband-and-wife team’s strong faith fuels the passion for what they do. Rita says most days it doesn’t even feel like work.

Ozarks Food Harvest is committed to helping hunger relief partners, like Helping Hands, serve the community. Each month, the Food Bank makes deliveries to the pantry. “Our Ozarks Food Harvest driver, Kevin, is a delight. He makes delivery days so enjoyable,” Rita said. “The volunteers are always happy after he leaves, talking about how kind and helpful he was.” It’s this compassion and willingness to serve that’s at the foundation of Ozarks Food Harvest and its partners. The Food Bank offers grants and equipment, in addition to groceries. A couple of years ago Ozarks Food Harvest purchased a two-door cooler for Helping Hands. Rita notes that the work they do would not be possible without the support of local churches, the Eagle Rock Community Center, local individuals, and Ozarks Food Harvest.

Over the last year, more and more individuals have faced hunger and had to seek assistance for the first time. Rita recalled an elderly woman that visited Helping Hands, needing groceries. Initially, she seemed a little distant, but over several months, slowly warmed up. They learned that she had recently lost her husband, and only had just enough money to cover the expense of her medication. She had never been to a food pantry before and was uncomfortable about asking for help. Because of the warm welcome from Helping Hands, the woman is now like family.

Ozarks Food Harvest is truly grateful for all of our hunger-relief partners who work tirelessly to provide food to those in need. It is thanks to their compassion and hard work that we are able to work towards ending hunger in the Ozarks.