“And Now Abideth Faith, Hope and Charity
BY RANDY RUDDER
Each year the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays bring out the sense of compassion and charity in us all, but one organization that has been helping those in need year-round for over thirty years is the Mt. Juliet Help Center.
In 1982, a group of pastors in the Mount Juliet area began meeting and discussing the possibility of creating a centralized community center that could be supported by several churches in town and later that year, the first community-wide Thanksgiving worship was held at St. Stephen’s Church. The funds from that worship event were designated to fund what would eventually become the Mt. Juliet Help Center. The chartering churches were Celebration Lutheran, Cloyd’s Cumberland Presbyterian, The Cross, Faith Presbyterian, St. Paul’s United Methodist, St. Stephen’s Catholic Community, and Suggs Creek Cumberland Presbyterian.
The Help Center provides short-term assistance in the form of food, clothing, limited utility assistance, and other forms of support to persons in need in West Wilson County.
Over the years, the Help Center has been in several locations, but is currently next door to Celebration Lutheran Church on North Mt. Juliet Road. “In addition to the churches that assist us, we receive grants from United Way, Wilson County, and the City of Mt. Juliet. We also are very blessed to receive many private donations, both of food and money,” says Help Center Director Carolyn Smith. “This is typically considered the more affluent part of Wilson County; however, there are hungry people everywhere. Many people are one paycheck or one medical emergency away from being in need of assistance,” she adds.
The Help Center also partners with several local merchants, including Publix, Kroger, Pizza Hut, and others. Twice this summer, the local Zaxbys’ franchise in Providence donated 10% of their sales to the Help Center. “We are primarily a food bank, but we also offer limited utility assistance as well as clothing items that we give away,” Smith says. “We are currently trying to build a new, larger building so that we can expand our services.”
The Center also provides a limited number of turkey dinner gift certificates each Thanksgiving. Smith says that, while the need for the Center’s services have ebbed and flowed with the economy over the years, the last recession hit the area quite hard. “The year of our highest demand was 2009, at the height of the recession,” she says. “Since then, our numbers have decreased each year, partly due to the growth in Mt. Juliet and the increased availability of jobs. However, we consistently serve new clients: people who are in need for the first time.
Smith says the Center often runs short on canned beans such as pinto, chili, kidney, and pork & beans. “Canned chili and soups are always appreciated, too,” she says. “We also run out of flour and sugar often.”
The Center is operated almost entirely by volunteers, Smith says. “We could not make the Help Center work without our wonderful volunteers. They typically commit to one day a week.” Big Brothers of Mt. Juliet also provides food boxes at Christmas for the Help Center, as well as organizing the Mother’s Toy Store.
Smith says the volunteers at the Center often hear touching stories from their clients, stories from people who are trying to keep their lights or water on so their children won’t be in the dark, or will be able to bathe. “These are often working people who just aren’t making enough money to cover all their expenses,”
Smith says. “One of our volunteers, after giving food to a young mother, overheard her child say, ‘Does this mean we can eat tonight, Mom?’ But happily, we have had several clients that have gotten back on their feet, and have started donating to the Help Center, too. This is so wonderful, because we know we have made a difference, in some small way.”
Those who wish to make donations can drop canned goods and gently used clothing off at the Center at 3425B North Mt. Juliet Rd. from 8:30 am to 12:30 am.. The Center’s phone number is 615-754-4357. They also accept donations in the form of checks at their physical and mailing address, and contributions can be made via Paypal on the Center’s website: www.mountjuliethelpcenter.org