Hartig moving Helping Hand forward despite COVID-19 pandemic
by Danny Wade
When Sharon Hartig was named the new executive director for Helping Hand of Humboldt, she was ready to hit the ground running. That was until the coronavirus made it’s way to the United States and soon hit pandemic level.
Hartig’s first day on the job was March 2. As she was learning the ropes from former director, Emma Lindsey, Helping Hand was in a transitional stage, moving from their Front St. location to the new 22nd Ave. location.
“Emma had been director several years,” Hartig said. “She held my hand during the transition. She will serve on the board of directors. She loves it (Helping Hand) too much. She can’t give it up.”
It was during the shutdown when they moved into the new facilities on 22nd Ave. The staff, volunteers and board members were so proud to be able to serve Humboldt even better than before in their new digs that includes a dining room where people can sit and eat, a large kitchen and a larger area for the Resale Shop (formerly known as the Thrift Store).
“These first two months were certainly different from what I expected with the transition from the old store to the new,” Hartig noted. “When we were ready to open, everything shut down (due to coronavirus). I’ve not seen what an average day will look like.”
Hartig and the staff had to make changes almost every week as to how or when they could open to the public. It’s still changing. Now they are restricting the number of people in the building, with one client only coming in to receive food to take home. The Resale Shop has not opened yet but should be soon, Hartig hopes.
“Our plans to serve hot meals everyday were put on hold,” she added. “We haven’t been able to use the new dining room. Now we’re serving hot lunches to go.”
At the Front St. location, box lunches were served on Tuesdays and Thursday. Now in the new building, lunches are being served on Wednesdays and Fridays too, with possible plans to include Mondays. Mondays are delivery days to Helping Hand, which takes a lot of time and effort from staff and volunteers.
Hartig said their numbers are down due to the shutdown as for how many food boxes they are supplying but expects them to pick up.
Helping Hand has four people on staff but several people volunteer. Along with Hartig are Jennifer Childress who is manager of the Resale Shop, Kim Arnold is the kitchen manager and Jan Hubble is the caseworker.
“We have lots of volunteers—some have been here more than a decade,” Hartig said of the workers’ dedication. “Some may have experienced difficult circumstance and want to give back. The best part of my job is helping the staff and volunteers use their gifts to their fullest potential.”
Hartig said the least favorite part of the job is emotional when Helping Hand is not able to meet someone’s needs. It doesn’t happen that often. Hartig praised Hubble for making sure the people’s needs are met.
“She will look everywhere, under every rock, to meeting someone’s needs, but sometimes we can’t,” Hartig explained.
With the new facilities, Helping Hand has much more space and with the extra space, opens the door for more opportunities to provide even more services to those who depend on Helping Hand.
One idea Hartig wants to examine is the possibility of opening an education center where people can learn how to create a resume, how to present themselves during an interview, as well as nutrition education and health education. Hartig admits that would be several months down the road.
Some of the new space is being used for a larger Resale Shop area and additional storage area for furniture and other household items. With the shutdown, Helping Hand has not been able to open the shop but plans are to open this week.
One thing the shutdown did cause was an abundance of donations. With people at home, many used the time to clean out their closets and houses. Many donated them to Helping Hand.
“We have a lot of nice items for sale,” said Hartig. “Our new hours will be Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. once we open.”
Hartig seems to be the perfect fit as director of Helping Hand. She compares how Helping Hand compares to the embodiment a church operation. It takes the right kind of people to do the right kind of work. Some people cook, some people clean, some people work in the office, some tend to the needs.
“It takes all of us working together,” Hartig said with passion. “We can make it happen.”