Helping Hands of Georgetown Inc. is in its 25th year of helping folks with basic needs such as food, clothing and utility bill payments as well as programs and mentoring to change their lives and break out of poverty.
In 2013, Helping Hands distributed 38,000 pounds of food to Georgetown County residents in crisis and executive director Sharon Thomas says “we’re set to distribute more this year.” In the first half of 2014, the pantry provided food to 2,034 adults and children (1,040 households) and other services such as utility payments helped 1,169 people (618 households). “Demand is not decreasing. One in five county residents are still in poverty.”
Helping Hands also has an emergency dental clinic in its headquarters. The clinic is staffed on Thursday evenings by volunteer dentists and through September of this year provided 192 appointments to 140 adults and a total of 236 tooth extractions, Thomas says.
As is the case with similar nonprofits in Horry County, churches are the backbone of support. “We have about 20 churches” on the Leadership Advisory Council and the congregations provide 20 percent of the approximately $300,000 annual operating budget. Helping Hands is part of the Georgetown County United Way.
The Helping Hands tagline is “Hope for Help and Help to Change.” “The mission is to help people going through crisis with food, clothing and utilities and then to help change lives so they are not in crisis again.” The Help to Change part includes programs with partner agencies and mentoring. “We coach and coordinate with people who are willing and able to change,” Thomas says.
Partners include the Georgetown Library System for training and S.C. Works for employment assistance and the Howard Adult Learning Center. Thomas noted a seminar on “How to be a first-time homeowner.”
Coordinator of volunteers Marilyn Formanack says 35 to 40 donate hours at Helping Hands. “We have wonderful volunteers,” she says, noting she has only a couple of openings. “I just love this place.”
Helping Hands has a major fundraiser on Oct. 26 at Dover Plantation south of the city. The setting is a private residence and features a catered dinner and entertainment by the Claflin University Choir of Orangeburg. “It’s a wonderful choir,” Thomas says.
The choir performed for the first Dover Plantation fundraiser last year and was invited back. “We did very well last year,” and Thomas is more than pleased that the event is “not quite sold out.” The goal for the fundraiser is $40,000, and “I’m certain we’re going to exceed it.”
Thomas, a native of North Charleston, has been the executive director for four and a half years. She lives in Berkeley County and shows her dedication and enthusiasm by saying “I run to work every day.”