The volunteers for God’s Hands at Work, with the help of the community, gave back in multiple ways over the Christmas season. During one of their initiatives, they discovered they unknowingly helped the family members of one of their regular supporters.
For the past four years, the organization has completed a night of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness (referred to has RACK IT event by the organizers), where volunteers hit the streets and local businesses looking for people to help out in some way. They try to target businesses who have supported the organization throughout the year, which allows them to give back to both those businesses and surprise the community members with a random act of kindness.
Director Lisa Carroll said this year was a little unusual compared to previous years because there weren’t a lot of people out and about the night they went and it took them a little longer than usual to find people to help.
They were able to assist a college student at Speedway in Gallipolis by purchasing gas and help a young man whose car was disabled push the car from the road and make contact with someone for assistance.
Earlier in the evening, the group also assisted a father of six, who had recently lost his job, purchase Christmas gifts for his family.
“They had not applied for any of the local programming because he had a job. They didn’t think they were going to need help from anywhere. And then he suddenly lost his job and here they are a few days before Christmas scrambling to get them a few things,” said Carroll. “And so we were able to help out with that. That is one of my favorite stories of the evening because the whole thing about God’s Hands at Work is that, we never know when we’re going to be down on our luck. We’re meant to be a hand up, not a handout, but a hand up to folks in need. That’s exactly what we were to him that night.”
Still, the group was not quite finished and were still searching for people to help, which led them to Speedway on Jackson Pike. There they put $25 worth of gas into Shelbi Smith’s vehicle, who later posted a picture and thank-you on her Facebook page.
What the group didn’t know was Shelbi and the young man they helped with the disabled vehicle were relatives of one of their regular supporters, Wes Smith with A&W Auto Service.
“I think God knows what he’s doing and he always has a way of putting you in the right place at the right time,” said Carroll. “Had people been at those other places we would have already met our limit and been home.”
When Carroll found out the two were related to Smith, she was glad she was able to give back to him through his family.
“Wes has been a huge supporter of ours,” said Carroll.
RACK IT was not the only give-back event the group organized. They also organized, with the help of the community, a throw drive for local nursing homes and a food drive to stock the organization’s pantry.
God’s Hands at Work regularly visits Abbyshire Place Skilled Nursing and Rehab and Arbors at Gallipolis. They had originally visited 16 nursing homes in the region on a regular basis, but found, with the number of volunteers they had, it did not allow them to form actual relationships with the residents. They decided, for now, to focus on the two, and for Christmas hosted a drive for throws to be given to the residents. The community stepped up.
“We got so many throws we were able to add in two more nursing homes,” said Carroll.
In the end, the group delivered throws, a Christmas card and a candy cane to 272 residents of Arbors, Abbyshire Place, Holzer Senior Care and Holzer Assisted Living.
They also had some help from the Aftershock 4-H group.
“It was a huge blessing to have them,” said Carroll. “They were really on board and they collected some things for us to prepare for that. They came and helped us Christmas carol and hand out the throws. And the residents just love having youth there. Their eyes just light up when they see children.”
Local businesses also stepped up to help the group with stocking their food pantry.
For the second year, Norris Northup Dodge held a “Bring a can and fill the van” event, which started in November for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and continued through December. In addition to matching whatever the community donated, Norris Northup Dodge also gave away a mystery car to encourage the community to donate food to the event. Lynn Mayes of Gallipolis was announced as the winner.
In the end, the drive collected two vans and two truckloads of non-perishable food items.
The Vinton Elementary Jr. Beta Club, students and staff also held a drive and delivered their items to Norris Northup Dodge and Piggly Wiggly held a food drive, where they offered pre-bagged items for customers to purchase and donate, for the second year in a row. Those items were delivered directly to the center.
But those weren’t the only businesses who jumped on board to help. Aaron’s and On the Go Transportation joined forces for a “picture with Santa” food drive to benefit the group.
The food pantry at God’s Hands at Work is an ongoing effort, but Carroll said the donations are particularly helpful in winter.
“Every little bit adds up and it helps. We’ve been really fortunate to have all four of those companies helping stock the food pantry through the holidays,” said Carroll. “Our need increases dramatically during the winter months. I attribute that partly to the fact that folks have much higher heating costs.”
In addition, the group also kicked off its J.A.M. (Jesus And Me) afterschool program in December at Vinton Elementary for grades 2 through 5, during which the group assists students with homework, provides a healthy snack, completes a craft activity and usually ends the session with a physical activity.
“That’s our kind of our way of mentoring these young people and creating lasting relationships with them,” said Carroll.
The program will run through the end of the school year.
God’s Hands at Work also served as a distribution point for the Gallia County Community Christmas Project and sponsored children themselves.
Overall, Carroll said God’s Hands at Work would not be able to assist those in need without its dedicated volunteers, who logged over 5,000 volunteer hours this year, and the support of the community.
“[The volunteers] are hard workers and they are givers. They love to share God’s love and that’s what we’re trying to do, love our neighbor as our self, as we’re commanded to do. They do a very good job of it,” said Carroll. “The volunteers and the community together is what makes this program work. If the community is not on board participating with their donations and their support, then there’s nothing for the volunteers to do. Our community keeps our volunteers very busy and we’re happy with that.”
For more information about God’s Hands at Work, follow them on their Facebook page or call (740) 645-7609.