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Home News-Telegram News NEIGHBORS — United Way Sharing: 3 new agencies use HCUW donations to improve lives

NEIGHBORS — United Way Sharing: 3 new agencies use HCUW donations to improve lives

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Each year Hopkins County United Way is approached by numerous agencies which help people. A representative from each goes before the HCUW allocations committee to request a specified amount of money and to explain how those funds would be used by that agency to benefit people in Hopkins County.

The number of agencies varies annually, generally around 15-16. This year, three new agencies — MADD of East Texas, Winnsboro Community Resource Room and The Dinner Bell — were added to the list, bringing the total number of agencies allocated to receive a portion of the $155,000 campaign goal to 19.


The Dinner Bell

The Dinner Bell is a ministry of First United Methodist Church which started on Feb. 1, 2012, and served over 5,000 meals by January. This year, they expect to serve closer to 6,000.

The program was started by FUMC member T.C. Hamilton, who presented the idea to Senior Pastor Pete Adrian in December 2011.  Hamilton said he felt the ministry, which serves lunch to anyone in need every Wednesday, was a calling from God.

“I had a calling to do something. I was at Walk to Emmaus and God was nudging me to do something. God can speak to you in funny ways. It just kept coming up,” Hamilton said of the food ministry.

He talked to Adrian about using FUMC’s underutilized kitchen to feed people in need of a meal. Hamilton was given the go-ahead, with the challenge of naming the ministry and picking a start date.

“I needed to get organized. That would take time. That was in December. He said, ‘How about Feb. 1?” Hamilton said, admitting that a month didn’t seem like very long to get the program off the ground, but he was determined to try. “Different people heard about it and called; they wanted to be part of it.”

Some of those individuals, who are of other faiths and belong to other churches, have been dedicated supporters of the food ministry and show up every Wednesday to do their part.

“It’s kind of a neat deal,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got some people who come in every Wednesday to help. It’s amazing. I came up with the idea, but the heroes are the ones who come in every week to serve.”

The make-up of people who benefit from The Dinner Bell is also as diverse as the volunteer staff. The program is open to anyone who is in need of a meal between noon and 1 p.m. Wednesday, no particular church membership or religious affiliation required. 

“Before we eat, we pray. But we tell them if they don’t want to participate, they don’t have to. We’ve had a few who chose not to. We’ve also had a few that joined our church,” Hamilton said.

The name for the program came after much thought. The idea of pitching it as “Souper Wednesday” was raised, but it was thought that might make people think of a soup kitchen or meal which includes only soup and bread. The Dinner Bell provides a full free meal. For instance, Wednesday’s menu included meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad and dessert.

The name ultimately came as a result of the old fashioned tradition of ringing the dinner bell to let people know it’s time to eat. Before lunch is served each Wednesday, the dinner bell is sounded.

Meals vary depending on foods available from North Texas Food Bank. The cooks go and plan the menu accordingly. And, sometimes, individuals generously donate fresh vegetables from their gardens.

“We’ve not missed a Wednesday yet,” said Hamilton, noting that Wesley United Methodist Church graciously stepped in and loaned their facilities for the weekly Wednesday lunch program so it wouldn’t have to be discontinued while FUMC’s fellowship hall underwent repairs over the last few months. 

The number of people served by The Dinner Bell continues to grow, with more coming due to word of mouth.

“That first meal we prepared for 100 and only seven showed up. The next there were 25 to 30. Then, it was 45-50, then up to 80. We serve more than 100 to people who come in. There are some people in the community who can’t come in — homebound that sort of thing. We get it to them. We do 120 to 130 meals each Wednesday,” Hamilton said. “As we approach two years, we expect 6,000. There’s more need. There are different faces that come in as others find out about the program.”

Funding for the program first was obtained by a charitable donation, then a match from the church. The fund grew to $18,000 thanks to donations. Since then, the program has received a generous donation from Chicks for Charity, and HCUW has allocated $1,000 of this year’s campaign to The Dinner Bell. Of course, donations to keep the program going are always welcome and appreciated. Funds may be sent to FUMC, 301 Church St., designated to The Dinner Bell.


Winnsboro Community Resource Room

Winnsboro Community Resource Center is located in Winnsboro, a multi-county town, thus the facility offers services to people in all three counties. Quite a few people served at the center are from the far eastern portion of Hopkins County, particularly Como, according to the Rev. Art Walden, WCRC executive director.

The non-profit organization was formed in 2010 by a group of citizens from the faith-based, public and private sectors concerted about the growing feeding challenge in the community. Several churches had small food pantries, but expected the needs to exceed their resources in the foreseeable future. Nine churches joined forces to expand the services and better assist area residents with a centralized food pantry. 

One church provided the downtown location, the Chamber of Commerce provided a VISTA volunteer for six months to help with the capacity-building efforts of the program. The city of Winnsboro offered the time of the economic development director and a community liaison person to help with organizational components.

The doors to WCRC Food Pantry opened June 1, 2010. More than a dozen churches of different denominations provide food, donations and volunteers to staff the pantry, which is open Tuesdays and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A seven-member board of directors was formed in summer 2010, and the program was granted 501(c)(3) status in December 2010.

Initially, food came from donations, but demand quickly outpaced supplies. WCRC began purchasing pre-packed food from East Texas Food Bank and Kings Storehouse in Tyler. The pre-packaged foods are designed to serve a family of three or four for four days. 

During the first six days of operation, WCRC Food Pantry served 209 individuals, including 53 families. In the first year, the facility distributed more than 7,000 boxes of food which helped more than 1,600 families.

The center serves more than 500 families and individuals and helps to feed about 2,000 people a month, according to information provided by Walden.

According to the October WCRC newsletter, 1,722 people in 608 families received food from WCRC during the summer months, with August the month people showed the greatest need. Of those, 55 were new clients, 1,488 were from Wood County, 77 Hopkins County and 59 Franklin County, and an additional  98 were from Camp County.

In September, 4,256 people from 1,551 families were aided by WCRC, including 150 first-time clients. Of those served in September, 115 people were Hopkins County residents, according to data provided by Walden.

In addition to distributing food and personal care items, the center also provides financial assistance for utilities, medication and housing. Generally, those typically served by WCRC are unemployed, people making only minimum wage, part-time workers and single mothers with children who need extra support.

HCUW has allocated $500 to WCRC to help the program continue to meet those needs. Tax-deductible donations and volunteers are also always welcome. Donations may be mailed to WCRC 115 West Broadway St., Winnsboro Texas 75494. For more information, contact Walden at 903-342-3287 or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


MADD of East Texas

Mothers Against Drunk Driving-East Texas has three affiliate offices — Beaumont, Bryan and Tyler — which serve 49 counties in East Texas. Sulphur Springs is served by the Tyler office.

Founded by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, MADD is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking. MADD offers free direct victim services to victims/survivors of impaired driving crashes. MADD's victim advocates provide emotional support, guidance through the justice systems, information and referrals.

Forty percent of all crashes in Texas were due to impaired driving, 8 percent higher than the national average. In East Texas, 152 people died  and 2,305 were injured in drunk driving crashes last year. In Hopkins County, one person died, 17 others were injured and 37 impaired driving crashes were reported in 2012, according to data from MADD of East Texas.

From September 2012 to August 2013, MADD East Texas served 1,500 victims of impaired driving. The Tyler office serves about 1,0000 victims annually, the information notes.

The services MADD offers include crisis counseling, assistance with crime victims’ compensation, literature pertaining to victim issues, referrals to other social services, support groups, court accompaniment and memorial marker placement at crash sites.

The East Texas offices also help with candlelight vigils and Tree of Angel events “to honor loved ones and create new support networks by meeting other services.” This year, for the first time, a Walk Like MADD fundraiser held in Hopkins County to raised more than $9,000 for MADD East Texas.

MADD East Texas, like other affiliates, also present prevention programs targeted at youth and young adults. Recently, MADD East Texas Program Specialist Kelli Hale visited Sulphur Springs schools to discuss drunk driving and the dangers/consequences of alcohol use among teens.

Generally, representatives present prevention programs to about 15,0000 East Texans each year. Last year, MADD East Texas also served 500 parents through 30 minute Power of Parents workshops, according to data provided by MADD East Texas Executive Director Leslie Watson.

MADD also hosts intervention programs for first and second offense drunk driving offenders through victim impact panels and minor in possession alcohol awareness classes.

Hopkins County United Way this year has allocated $1,000 to to MADD East Texas. More information about MADD can be found at www.madd.org. To volunteer, donate to the organization or information about specific services, call the Tyler office at 903-534-6000 or 1-800-65-6233.




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