by Danny Wade
When Dr. Carolyn Stewart took the position of secretary for Helping Hand of Humboldt six or seven years ago, she had no idea how rewarding the job would be. Now she says it’s time to pass the baton to the next secretary.
Last Wednesday, Helping Hand board members held a retirement luncheon at Central Avenue Christian Church in Dr. Stewart’s honor.
“She’s the best secretary we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” said past board president, Mike Hawks. “She’s devoted, has a good heart—she did everything. We need more board members like her.”
Dr. Stewart has been involved in education for most of her life. She was principal at Humboldt High School a few years back. Even though she retired, Stewart has stayed active in education, serving with the Public Library Foundation.
“It’s been a privilege to serve on this board with so many wonderful people,” Dr. Stewart said. “Had life not overwhelmed me, I would still be here.”
With Stewart’s departure, Jocelyn Bundy will be the non-profit’s new secretary.
“Carolyn was the glue that held us together. She’s a rock,” said board president Shane Lynch. “She’s a great secretary. She gets the job done, and done correctly. She was always looking for ways to get grants and donations.”
Helping Hand of Humboldt provides food for those in need. But Dr. Stewart says they do so much more.
“Unless you’re part of the board, you don’t realize the exorbitant amount of things we provide to the needy in Humboldt besides just food,” Dr. Stewart noted. “We have classes on living, money, healthy eating. We help people with utilities. We do so much more.”
Helping Hand of Humboldt assists people from not only Humboldt, but Medina and Gibson as well, according to director Emma Lindsey.
“We do around 400 boxes of food per month for families and feed about 750 people per month,” Lindsey said of the charity’s work. “We do around 150 sack lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
But lately, the nonprofit charity has fallen on hard times. Donations aren’t coming in as much as in the past.
“We are in dire need of financial help,” director Lindsey said last week. “We are in dire need of a new building too.”
The Helping Hand building at the Crossing is in extremely bad condition. It is where food is distributed and the location of their thrift store of donated clothes, furniture and other items that are sold to raise funds to keep the doors open.
During Wednesday’s luncheon for Dr. Stewart, board member Harry Davidson offered an overview of Helping Hand.
“It started 40-plus years ago when two ladies on Main Street volunteered,” Davidson said of Helping Hand’s beginnings. “It was the place in town that raised money. Everyone got behind Helping Hand. But things have changed.”
Davidson spoke about a program at Humboldt Utilities, started by former general manager, Stan Little. Utility customers could opt into the program to “round up” their bill to the next dollar. The extra cents the customer pays goes into an account for Helping Hand. Over the years, business has changed due to several factors, including the way people pay their bills. Davidson said Helping Hand was getting around $7,000 a month from the program but is now only getting around $2,500. That’s about a 65-percent decrease.
The board is hopeful more people will opt into the program at Humboldt Utilities.
Lindsey and board members say they are at the brink of closing the doors for good unless more funding comes about.
Lindsey told the board how things changed due to the new Second Harvest Food Bank hub coming to Camden.
She also said Helping Hand will be getting free food from USDA soon but most of their food is purchased at huge discounts from Second Harvest. Plus there are costs involved in getting the food delivered from Nashville and Camden. Lindsey said she measured the distance from Camden to Helping Hand’s front door and said it is cheaper to rent a truck and pay mileage than to have the food shipped to Humboldt.
Helping Hand of Humboldt has helped needy families for over 40 years. Now is the time for people to step up to the plate and give a hand up to Helping Hand so they in turn can give hand outs to those most in need.