"Helping in His name . . . responding to situations of emergency or need with immediacy and simplicity, respecting the dignity of all persons, in the spirit of Jesus Christ."
This is the mission statement of Christian Help and the commitment to which is staff strive to fulfill each day.
“The Lord does know what we need,” Sister Therese Carew says, reaching into a box that arrived at Christian Help, the agency in Kermit where she helps struggling families with day necessities clothes, food, shelter.
She explains she heard the plight of a family who lived in a remote area of Mingo County, had no transportation but two school age children. School had started, and the family had no means to buy basic school supplies. The children were borrowing paper and pencils.
That week, a box arrived with new backpacks those children can carry to school.
“We packed up school supplies, some shampoo and other toiletries,” she said. “Along with some things for their mother.”
Sister Therese is the new executive director of Christian Help, an agency in Kermit that serves local low-income families, operating a free clothing store, a food pantry, furniture and household items and financial aid in times of crisis.
They also furnish a transportation service, helping people with a ride to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store.
Christian Help began 17 years ago when Sisters Brendan Conlon and Janet Peterworth arrived in Mingo County and founded the orgaization. Sr. Brendan headed the agency until this year, when Sr. Brendan retired and Sr. Therese became executive director.
Sr. Therese is from Aurora, Ill., the youngest of seven children. She has been a member the Franciscan Order of the Sacred Heart for 27 years, and holds a Masters Degree in Social Work.
Hugging Snowflake, the dog she adopted, she said, “because I knew no one else would be able to take care of her, with her medical problems,” Sr. Therese told the Daily News that not much has changed since she first came to Christian Help in 2006, except that the number of people who need help has doubled.
“I don’t have plans to change anything,” she said. “I just want to keep going. The challenge is to keep funding, to keep our programs going.”
Sr. Therese said the state of the economy has created a bigger need in the community, as well as affected donors, so that there is less money to donate to agencies like Christian Help.
“And there’s been so many natural disasters,” she said. “The whole nation has been hit hard.”
She said items such as a recent audit that cost thousands of dollars and health insurance for the employees have a huge impact on an agency such as hers, as there is no money coming in, all their services are free of charge, and so no way increase their income.
The people at Christian Help are not simply co-workers, but are family, according to Food Pantry Manager Mina Hammond.
Hammond was familiar with the faces at Christian Help, she volunteered there when she wasn’t working at the local grocery store, when her son drowned in an accident last June.
She was in Huntington with her husband, who had been hospitalized following a car wreck, when a friend called her, asking her to come home. She said when she arrived at the scene, Sr. Therese was already there, to support her through the tragedy.
“They were there, waiting for me,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do, so they just did it for me. They went to the funeral home, helped me pay the expenses. They saved me, got me through that.”
When Hammond could no longer work at the grocery store, Sr. Therese offered her a recently vacated position at Christian Help, where she now works full time.
“We are family, we don’t say we are going to work, we say we are going home, its like home here,” she said. “The people here mean everything to me.”
Christian Help gives to those in need, whether it is food or transportation or money to keep the lights on. But Mina Hammond says the support they offer is more than that.
“Everyone that comes in knows they are going to get a smile and a hug,” she said. “This place is all about giving.”