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Liz Pyatt with Bible Way Assembly in the clothing room of the newly-opened free store. Lisa Brotherton-Barnes
The holidays can be tough when needs are often greater than at any other time of the year
For many Parkland area residents, the holiday season signals the oncoming rush of the feasting season and chaotic shopping sprees for gift-giving celebrations. Plans are made for multiple happy festivities filled with friends and family.
Unfortunately for some, depression settles down over the November and December holidays as they become stressful spans of financial challenges and the inability to meet basic needs for themselves or family members. Assistance is typically available through commonly used sources like the East Missouri Action Agency (EMAA) and standard food pantries, but they often require registration through EMAA.
As little as $10 over a specified income limit excludes individuals or families from receiving assistance, so while they “make too much money,” they struggle with household needs. Unexpected, privately sponsored resources exist in the Parkland area to bridge the gap to provide help and hope to those in need who don’t qualify for traditional government-based assistance.
Blessing boxes are becoming frequent additions in the Parkland area. They are typically situated in public locations, sponsored by various groups, but are an available resource to anyone in need.
“Take what you need, leave what you can in the future” is the underlying principle behind the distribution points. Zero face-to-face interaction is required to choose items from the boxes, and it preserves the dignity of the person in need. Those who have personal hygiene, household products, or non-perishable food items are encouraged to share their surplus with whatever blessing box is closest to them and may do so without first contacting the sponsoring organization.
In Bismarck, the Community Coat Closet is hosted by Bismarck United Methodist Church at 906 Mulberry St. Free coats, jackets, scarves, and gloves for men, women, and children are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, located near the church’s blessing box outside the church. Those in need of warmer attire or food and hygiene items found in the blessing box are welcome to take what they need.
Community residents with excess items are encouraged to share their surplus by leaving it at the church for distribution. A free community dinner is available to anyone from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month. Drive-through or dine-in options are available. For more information, you may call the church at 573-734-2221.
In Bonne Terre, the Bonne Terre Ministerial Alliance can provide some financial assistance to those who can document residency in the 63628 zip code. Contact the community coordinator at 573-534-7077.
The Centenary United Methodist Church at 20 Park Avenue hosts Cornerstone Cafe at 5 p.m. each Wednesday, with a free meal available to anyone. Dine-in or carry-out options are available. For more information, call 573-358-2238.
Shared Blessings Transitional Housing Ministry at 518 Grove St. maintains a blessing box near the entrance to the property. Transitional housing is available for those who meet specific program criteria. For more information, call 573-358-2998.
Medical equipment loans and grief counseling services are available at no charge through New Beginnings under the leadership of Kathy Grogan. Primary offices are located at 29 West School St. For more information, call 573-760-3609.
“We’re still going strong in the way of helping people,” Grogan said. “We’ve cut back on some of the areas we used to fill — like CPAP equipment and supplies, particularly after the Phillips recalls. But there always remains a need for medical equipment — walkers or wheelchairs — that sometimes insurance won’t cover but is really needed by someone. We still have people who donate those items, and it helps keep the program moving along. And with the holidays fast approaching, grief support services help people cope with the empty seat at a Thanksgiving table or a Christmas dinner.”
The Park Hills area has multiple resources for assistance. The Midwest Veterans Outreach and Thrift Store, located at 102A Strauss Drive in the Save A Lot Plaza, is owned and operated by veteran James Williams. While supplies last, anyone in need of a coat for winter is welcome to get a free one. Free personal hygiene items, food items, medical supplies and equipment, and other types of assistance are available by asking for help. The proceeds from thrift store sales enable Williams to provide some financial assistance on a limited basis to meet needs for prescriptions, utilities, and other necessities. Items donated to sell or financial contributions are needed to further the assistance levels offered by the outreach. Assistance is available to the general community in addition to veterans, although assistance to veterans takes priority.
“We are here to help those in need — but we need your help to keep doing what we do for the community and our veterans. Drop by or give us a call to find out more,” said Williams. “We are the only non-profit in the area that I can say with 100% certainty that whatever comes into the store, then 100% goes back out the door to help the community. Nobody gets paid here, and I personally take care of any administrative fees. If you know somebody that needs help, send them in. If you need help, then you come in.” For more information, call 573-722-4000.
Across Main Street, near the entrance to Columbia Park and next to the Canton Garden parking lot, a yellow metal box that was formerly a newspaper stand has a fresh identity as the Kindness Kupboard. Parkland Hope Center and Desloge Walmart are frequent partners who ensure that the box is stocked. Those in need of food and hygiene items are free to take what they need. It is sponsored by the Park Hills Public Library. For more information, call 573-431-4842.
The Park Hills Church of the Nazarene, located at 400 Sixth St., has a blessing box available just outside the main entrance. For more information, call 573-431-2631.
The Overflow Outreach offers a hot meal and a message of hope from 7-9 p.m. every Friday in the parking lot of the Laundry Basket at 501 South St. Joe Drive. Meals are provided in cooperation with St. Francois County community members and New Horizons at 408 West Main St. The Overflow Outreach strives to meet the needs of the homeless or others with extreme financial burdens by offering personal hygiene and other items during the Friday sessions. If anyone in the community has spare sleeping bags or other cold-weather gear they would like to donate, it would be gladly accepted and donated to those who are unhoused. For more information, call 573-701-8651 and ask for Wendy.
In Farmington, the Memorial United Methodist Church at 425 North St. offers a free meal through their outreach called MUM’s Cafe, where dine-in or carry-out options are available every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Diners are welcome to remain for mid-week worship services after the meal.
Regular cafe volunteer Catherine Hurst said, “Please come join us for great home-cooked food and great company.” The church also has a blessing box outside the entrance facing Karsch Boulevard. For more information, call 573-756-4565.
All Saints’ Episcopal Church at 1151 West Columbia St., has a blessing box near the main entrance of the church. For more information, call 573-756-3225.
St. Joseph Catholic Church at 501 Ste. Genevieve Ave. offers a free meal, dine-in or carry-out, from 4-6 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month through its community outreach called “Our Father’s Table.” For more information, call the parish office at 573-756-4250.
The First Baptist Church at 210 North A St. has a free coat giveaway daily. The rack is outside the main entrance to the parking lot. Take what you need, and leave what you can.
“We want to be a blessing to those in our community, and if something as simple as having an outside coat rack meets a need for someone, then praise the Lord,” said Kevin Willis, the associate pastor of worship. For more information, call 573-756-4654.
East Missouri Action Agency has been able to open the Uplift Day Shelter at 605 Wallace Road, offering showers, clothing, food, and case management from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Laundry facilities are available from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays at 609 Wallace Road.
The Christian Life Church at 4905 Flat River Road offers a free store on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information, call 573-431-7300.
In Doe Run, the Doe Run United Methodist Church at 3126 Hwy 221 has a blessing box at the parking lot entrance. For more information, call 573-535-4015.
Bibleway Assembly Church hosts a free store at 202 Willow St. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. A limited amount of food is also available but is dependent upon donations from the community.
Store organizer Liz Pyatt said, “We are accepting donations for our free store at Bible Way Assembly 202 Willow St Doe Run. I get requests for clothing, baby items, baby furniture, toys, blankets, sheets, towels etc.
“The only thing we can’t take is regular furniture, baby furniture is OK. Help us help others for the holidays! Everything we get is passed on 100% free of charge.”
Matthew 7:12 Ministry at 12 Cap America Drive in Fredericktown is a multi-faceted independent community service agency that offers medical equipment, an emergency food pantry, personal hygiene products, and youth clothing and supplies. They have taken over the services previously offered by the Sheets and Young Foundation. For more information, call 573-300-3401.
The Overflow at the First Baptist Church of Potosi is located at 10479 State Highway P. It has no affiliation with the Park Hills group with a similar name. The Overflow is a free resource that operates through donations of clothing, shoes, and non-perishable food items. Those items are then available without any income documentation to any Washington County resident. For more information, call 573-438-2389.
Exclusively for children in Washington County, the WashCo Christmas for Kids program is accepting signups through Dec. 2. Documents required are a parent/guardian photo positive ID and the child’s social security card or birth certificate. Call 573-438-5433, option 2, for more information.
In Ironton, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 106 North Knob St. has a blessing box. For more information, call 573-546-2397.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank webpage is a useful resource for locating food distribution events. Availability and nearness of locations may be pleasantly surprising to many. Visit their website at stlfoodbank.org and choose the “FIND FOOD” tab.
Lisa Brotherton-Barnes is a staff writer with the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.