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Each day, it takes HOPE (Helping Other People Effectively) in Lancaster 15 volunteers to make the agency flow and keep the doors open.
A faith-based, nonprofit volunteer-driven organization, HOPE provides short-term emergency assistance for those in crisis.
While they assist with utilities, mortgages, rent and food, they also provide a shoulder for hurting families to lean on.
That means its 75 unified volunteers stay plenty busy behind the scenes, especially this time of year.
But they recently received their due for their behind-the-scenes labor.
These volunteers were honored at HOPE in Lancaster’s annual volunteer banquet.
Held Nov. 13 at the University of South Carolina Lancaster’s Bradley Arts and Sciences Building, the banquet was a chance to celebrate and say thank you to HOPE’s unsung heros like Macy Mullis and sisters Autumn and Jordan Hill.
Mullis is currently the longest-serving HOPE volunteer with almost 30 years of service.
At the other age extreme, Autumn, Hill, 13, and Jordan Hill, 9, have spent part of their summer vacation for the last three summers alongside their grandmother, Doris Hush. The girls worked in the HOPE pantry stocking shelves and preparing basic supply orders.
Ken Hudson, HOPE board chairman, welcomed the volunteers, guests, and fellow board members to the banquet.
Hudson said the recent grassroots unity of the “We are Lancaster” campaign had spilled over to HOPE through the overwhelming support the agency experienced in 2012.
“You are HOPE,” Hudson said. “You are the ears that listen to the needs of others, the voice to provide words of encouragement, the hands to help in areas like the food pantry and the eyes to see the great needs of the people of our community.”
Elaine Adkins, HOPE executive director, agreed, saying 2012 has been a challenging year for HOPE.
HOPE was rocked this past summer when a former bookkeeper was charged and convicted of taking more than $60,000 from the agency.
Adkins said it made HOPE’s volunteers more determined not to give up.
“We survived the losses we experienced earlier this year by tightening our belts and stretching our money as much as we could,” she said.
“Our volunteers and members of our community, including businesses, churches, and Scouts also came to our aid.”
For example, Garris Jewelers is selling pearl earrings for only $5, with all proceeds going to HOPE.
Adkins said the new Publix supermarket donates bread, desserts and meat weekly.
Through a partnership with Bi-Lo, donations can be directed to HOPE through the Bi-Lo Bonus Card program.
Adkins said the Widows Sons Masonic Riders, as well as volunteers from Sun City Carolina Lakes, have rallied around HOPE, too. Volunteers also compiled a book with more than 600 tried-and-true recipes. In the last three months HOPE has sold about 800 cookbooks and still has some available for $15 each.
Eddie Adams, who rode in the HOPE Charity Ride on Oct. 8, left HOPE with a cookbook in one of his motorcycle saddlebags.
“I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for these things (cookbooks),” Adams said that day.
While food drives are held throughout the year to help stock the HOPE pantry, its volunteers go the extra mile, evident at the banquet. That night, they held their own mini-food drive, dropping off mounds of non-perishable foods as they arrived.
Angels are all around, said Rhonda Hare, HOPE client service manager.
In the 11 months she’s worked at HOPE, Hare said she’s learned what giving, loving and helping really means.
“Each one of you is an angel to me,” Hare told the volunteers.
Did you know?
In 2010, HOPE assisted 4,669 families and distributed food to 1,646 families. In 2011, the number had increased to assisting for 4,861 families and food for 2,137 families. Between January and October 2012, HOPE has assisted 3,914 families and distributed food to 2,007 families.