For Hopkins County residents who need assistance with meals, bills, prescriptions, other medical assistance or the paperwork to qualify for some of that, help is now headed their direction, to the four corners of the county on the first four Fridays of each month.
Judy Moore, executive director of both the Hopkins County Community Chest and the Christian Alliance Food Pantry, explained why the ReachOut program was started.
“We are constantly evaluating the effectiveness of both our programs on meeting the overall needs of the community,” she said.
The results of that evaluation? They were doing well serving Sulphur Springs residents, and decently on Como-Pickton, but not fully helping people in other parts of the county.
The “why” on that, Moore said, seemed to be three main issues. People needing assistance in outlying areas either didn’t have reliable transportation, they didn’t have money for gas, or they weren’t aware of what was available
So, she said, both organizations’ boards of directors began looking at how to improve that outreach. The result was a recognition that outreach needed to reach out — and hence the name of the new program.
“I suggested we go out to the community as being more effective,” Moore said “We’ve fixed some problems we’ve noticed.”
And that was that. ReachOut Hopkins County was created.
With the Community Chest and Food Pantry offices closed on Fridays anyway, Moore said the first obvious decision was to go out into Hopkins County on that day of the week.
And, with months normally having four Fridays, dividing the county into four quadrants and visiting them on a rotating monthly schedule was the next obvious decision.
Each Friday, ReachOut visits a different community, between noon and 3 p.m. On the first Friday of each month it is at Miller Grove Methodist Church; at Como Methodist Church on the second Friday of each month; the third Friday of each month at Peerless Assembly of God Country Store; and on the fourth Friday of each month at Sulphur Bluff Methodist Church.
Those locations were chosen because they are near the edges of the southwest, southeast, northwest and northeast portions of the county, respectively.
More specifically, the sites hosting each ReachOut were also chosen for a reason. Moore said she thought many people might be more comfortable visiting a church rather than a community center, especially a church that was not on the main highway in each of those communities.
Moore said she and other staff and volunteers have discovered other issues, that they may have known about to some degree, but which became more apparent with the area visits.
“Asking for help is a brand new experience for these people,” she said. “It’s uncomfortable.”
Early in the day during her Friday visit to Sulphur Bluff, Moore said a client in her mid-60s visited. Moore said this person said she had never in her life asked for help. She primarily needed bill payment assistance. She also asked for help paying for prescriptions. Moore said that’s a common request. Another client took some food assistance and also asked about help with bills.
Services of ReachOut include help in paying electric, water, propane or rent for low income households. They also include hygiene items, assistance with prescriptions, help with eye and dental exams, enrollment in the Christian Alliance Food Pantry, and help with emergency food assistance. Depending on which counselor is available, free notary service for clients applying for free medical care through the Hopkins County Indigent Health Care Program or oalso ther assistance programs may be available.
“It’s going well,” Moore said. She said her office has started getting phone calls about the program.
Eligible income levels are at or below these established SNAP thresholds: one person, $1,619; two persons, $2,191; three persons, $2,763; four persons, $3,335; five persons, $3,907, and larger families add $572 for each additional person over five.
Beyond being uncomfortable asking for help, Moore said in many cases, beyond the help itself, many of the clients she assists are are also just wanting someone to listen to their problems and concerns.
“It’s not uncommon to have them break down crying,” she said.
And, their needs aren’t that uncommon, either.
In many cases, multigenerational family structures may be part of the reason for the need.
Moore said that AARP said that in Texas in 2014, 18 percent of children in the state were living in a home with one or more grandparents — whether their parents were there or not.
She also said that, due to this and other issues, Hopkins County had more than 6,500 people, on average, going hungry.
Visiting the Community Chest and the Christian Alliance Food Pantry, whether in Sulphur Springs or at a ReachOut site, also lets these people know they’re not alone.
Moore is one of three paid staffers. Fifteen or so volunteers help her programs too.
One of them is her son, Gene Sims. He was with her at Sulphur Bluff Friday. He’s been volunteering for most of the time his mother has been running the agencies.
“I want to bring love and help them out,” he said.
Beyond the above programs, Moore said Community Chest also offered job retraining assistance — one new program will be starting in a couple of months.
As for how people in the county can help, Moore said she always appreciates food donations and food drives, but cash contributions actually go further. She said $1 of donated money can buy up to $24 worth of food from the North Texas Food Bank, as she basically pays only for transportation costs from Dallas.
She can always use more volunteers, she said. Spanish-speaking volunteers to help Hispanic clients are definitely welcome.
Moore also stressed the Christian faith basis of her organizations. She said support includes praying for clients while with them, and praying for staff and volunteers to better understand client needs.
Clients on food stamps or Medicaid, or with income at or below poverty thresholds qualify for the ReachOut program. Potential clients can call the main office at 903-885-3452 for more details .