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Hands of Hope coming to Park Hills

A Park Hills property is in the process of being converted to serve a unique purpose — one which the owners ascribe to an obedience to the mission of the Gospel and a desire to help others.

The Hands of Hope Community Assistance Program began in Illinois in 1999 when Woodie Stiltner, Jr. accepted the responsibility of using his trucking company to assist those in need. The organization primarily provides food at low to no cost, but also provides food, clothing, household goods, medical supplies and building materials to those in need.

The certified 501c3 nonprofit organization is based in Joliet, Illinois and distributes an average of 90,000 pounds of food per week, according to its website. Since its founding, the organization has added a Hope Center in Indiana and soon, one in Park Hills.

The Parkland Hope Center came about because of a local man, Dan Robbins’ meeting Stiltner and partnering with him to serve the organization for approximately nine years, with Robbins’ family joining in the effort for the last five or six years.

Robbins’ wife Tracy said Stiltner had been encouraging the Robbins family to start a Hope Center in the Parkland for a while and the moment Dan began looking for buildings, a Park Hills location “fell into his lap.”

Tracy described the Parkland Hope Center as a ministry similar to a Sam’s Club, but operated as a ministry for the community.

“It’s kind of like a Sam’s Club, with a $5 cash membership,” Tracy said. “You can come as many times as you want and you can purchase food, household items, pharmacy-type items, some name-brand and some non-name-brand. But it’s all at a 30 to 50 percent discounted price.”

Tracy said that as the center’s products cycle through, there will be times that free items are given away in addition to the deeply-discounted items.

“We’ll sometimes have free bread or free yogurt that is still good but has to go,” she said. “We’ll have that to grab on the way out, and sometimes we’ll have ‘food drops.’ We may do them at different locations throughout the Parkland, just depending on what we have coming in. Basically, there’ll be a truck that comes to Joliet, the main center, and then they divide these trucks up between the three centers.”

The center, located at the intersection of St. Joe Drive and Lewis Street in Park Hills, will open in coming months after the building’s conversion is completed.

Sheila Rawson, also a member of the team organizing the center, said the center will provide an opportunity for Parkland families to get the best bang for their buck, while also being spiritually ministered to.

“It’s exciting for our community because it makes their dollar go further,” Rawson said. “If a family of four comes in, and I’m thinking of those families that struggle but can’t get services like food stamps, if they can come into our center and save $50 a week, that’s $200 a month, which can go a long way. We will also accept EBT, however.”

Tracy said the center will also host daily Bible studies every morning before opening, which will be open to the public to come and join in on. Rawson added that the team members will also always be available for praying with individuals who need it.

“We want to provide that Christian atmosphere when you’re there, to meet those needs,” she said.

Tracy said the center will provide an opportunity for area churches to join together while working toward the common goal of ministering to the needs of the community.

“Something I’m totally for is just to get churches together,” she said. “We all share the same like mind in Christ and that’s what we need — for the churches to work together.”

While the organizers plan on providing assistance to the community, Rawson said the center itself will depend on local support to minister to the public, in turn.

“We’ll rely heavily on volunteers with churches, organizations or just individuals,” she said. “The product that comes through the center has to be hand-priced. We’ll always have opportunities to utilize volunteers and those on community service. That’s an area that we’ll need assistance.”

The center will host dates for early registration in coming weeks, for residents to come in, pay the $5 annual fee and fill out a short form so when the center opens, they can more quickly get products.

For more information about volunteer opportunities with the Parkland Hope Center, call 573-327-9200. For updates as the center gets nearer to opening, follow the center on Facebook by searching @parklandhopecenter.

The Parkland Hope Center will be opening in coming months and is located at the intersection of Lewis Street and St. Joe Drive in Park Hills.

The Parkland Hope Center will be opening in coming months and is located at the intersection of Lewis Street and St. Joe Drive in Park Hills.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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