Serving Others with Tender Hearts and Caring Hands
When Melissa’s husband left her, she had kids to feed, no job, and bills – lots of bills. “We had a nice house – we owned our own business – we had 3 kids – things looked good from the outside. Suddenly I found myself facing an unwanted divorce. I lost my house. It came to the point one day where I had to choose between paying my power bill and feeding my kids.” A friend told Melissa about Tender Hearts Caring Hands, a program of Ministry Village at Olive, so she called.
“They paid my electric bill, brought me food at Thanksgiving, and made sure my kids had presents at Christmas,” says Melissa. “The kindness that we were shown – it made a real difference – it brought some healing. And even though my circumstances didn’t change immediately, I walked out of that office with hope.”
Tender Hearts Caring Hands, formerly known as Church and Communities Ministries, was formed to provide financial assistance to those in need. The name was inspired by Olive Baptist Pastor Ted Traylor’s message on The Good Samaritan — teaching Christians to have tender hearts to recognize the needs of others, helping hands to actively serve others, and open wallets to be willing to provide for those who need help.
People come to Tender Hearts needing food or help paying utility bills, rent or a mortgage. Family food bags are provided from the Tender Hearts food pantry and are designed to feed a family of four for 4 days. The food bags include a variety of items like rice, beans, peanut butter, pasta, canned vegetables and canned meats as well as breads and bakery items. Patrons are eligible for 1 family food bag per household per year. In 2017, Tender Hearts provided 1,426 bags to families, helping an average of more than 27 families each week.
Tender Hearts relies on donations from individuals and area businesses to stock the food pantry. Publix Grocery at 9 Mile Road and Pine Forest has been a faithful partner, donating breads and sweets every week for Tender Hearts to use in the food bags. Publix’s weekly donation in 2017 amounted to nearly $25,000. Despite the generosity of our neighbors and friends like Publix, the need for food continues to outpace donations. Ministry Village spent $12,545 in 2017 alone purchasing additional food to meet the needs of clients.
Patrons needing financial assistance must meet pre-established criteria, complete an application and must attend a financial planning class designed by Ministry Village’s financial administrator. Upon class completion, they receive an additional food bag that is provided by Manna Food Pantries, one of Ministry Village’s community partners.
When clients apply for assistance, they can also list their prayer requests. Not all patrons are willing to pray with Tender Hearts coordinators or volunteers, but everyone who leaves a request is remembered in prayer daily by the volunteers who serve at Tender Hearts Caring Hands.
Kathie Schuster, coordinator of Tender Hearts Caring Hands, says, “I have the best job. Seeing these families, being able to help them and offer them hope – it fills me up every day.”
In early 2017, one woman was faced with her husband’s emergency brain surgery and months-long unemployment. Tender Hearts was able to help them during that difficult time. A few months later, that woman came to Kathie with vegetables from her garden – an offering of thanks from clients who have now become part of the Ministry Village family.
Kathie says those kinds of things happen often around Ministry Village. Families who have been helped and become stable return to Ministry Village months later to share their gratitude, and contribute what they can to bless others. “Having a family come back and say, ‘We want to pay it forward,’ that just makes our day. God is glorified!”
♥ Donations of non-perishable food and travel-size hygiene items are accepted at the Ministry Village office at 1830 E. Olive Road, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 2 pm. Specific food items that are always in demand include canned beans, canned meats including tuna and spam, peanut butter, 1 pound bags of rice, grits and spaghetti noodles, canned vegetables and crackers.
♥ We have an immediate need for volunteers in the Tender Hearts Caring Hands ministry. Volunteers may serve by transporting donated food items from area businesses, organizing the food pantry, or answering phones and assessing callers for financial assistance opportunities. If you would like to be of service to others in our community through Tender Hearts Caring Hands, please call 850-475-1118 or click here.
To learn more about Tender Hearts Caring Hands, part of Ministry Village at Olive, click here.