by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND--While the local economy may be on the mend, one local non-profit has seen the number of people coming to them for help sky rocket. Helping Hands of Midland is seeing a dramatic increase in applications.
So many families are turning to Helping Hands of Midland because they have no where else to go.
"It's all pretty much falling on Helping Hands right now, yes," Executive Director, Mary Hardin, said.
What started out as a desk and a phone, and selling clothes in someone's garage to raise money, Helping Hands of Midland helps those who can't help themselves.
According Hardin, sadly, the burden has fallen on them, "There's just not that much financial assistance being offered in Midland right now. Several of the large agencies that used to be big players, are out of funds."
Other organizations that normally help, still do, but can't do as much as they used to.
"Some of them may only be able to help with $50 or $100 or $150. When you're talking about an $800 dollar apartment, that doesn't go very far," Hardin explained.
Helping Hands receives about 1/3 of it's funding from St. Stephen's Catholic Church. Pastor Msgr. James Bridges is the original founder.
"It has grown beyond any expectations of mine. To have an organization that gives a million and a half a year to the local poor. I've always believed if you take care of the poor, God will take care of you," Bridges said.
St. Stephen's gives between $40,000 - $45,000 a month, taken up in special collections every Sunday. That goes directly to helping people pay rent, bills and medical expenses.
Msgr Bridges says he's blessed to have such a giving parish, "People here are extremely generous. They've had an unusual commitment to the poor and to know the poor are always going to be here."
One thing that isn't paid for by donations is staff salaries. The forty-plus regulars at Helping Hands are all volunteers, including Mary Hardin.
Despite an economy that seems to be on the mend, people are finding their paychecks aren't stretching as far as they used to. Hardin and Msgr Bridges say, as long as there's a need, they'll be there to lend a helping hand.
"Whatever it needs to get someone up from their deep need, up to where they can live at a level of human dignity, we do it," Bridges said.