A Park Hills property has been converted into a unique type of grocery store that its owners believe will spread the Gospel message while helping area residents in need.
The Parkland Hope Center, which held its grand opening and ribbon cutting on the morning of Nov. 26, is not a food bank or pantry, but instead, a private non-profit community assistance program that allows working and non-working people to obtain food and household items at a greatly discounted price. By doing so, it offers a long-term self-sufficient solution for families and individuals struggling to fulfill their basic needs.
The store is located at 601 Lewis St. — on the corner of St. Joe and Lewis Street.
The Hands of Hope Community Assistance Program began in Illinois in 1999, when Woodie Stiltner Jr. began 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.
According to its website the certified 501c3 nonprofit Joliet, Illinois-based organization distributes an average of 90,000 pounds of food per week. Since its founding, the organization has added a Hope Center in Indiana, along with the one now open in Park Hills.
The Parkland Hope Center became a reality after local resident Dan Robbins met Stiltner and partnered 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.”
In July, Tracy described the Parkland Hope Center as a ministry similar to a discount shopping club but operated as a ministry for the community.
“It’s kind of like a Sam’s Club, with a $5 cash membership,” she 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.”
Additionally, as the center’s products cycle through, there will be times that free items such as bread or yogurt are given away in addition to the deeply-discounted items.
“We’ll have that to grab on the way out, and sometimes we’ll have ‘food drops,’ she said. “We may do them at different locations throughout the Parkland, just depending on what we have coming in. Basically, there will be a truck that comes to Joliet, the main center, and then they divide these trucks up between the three centers.”
Team member Sheila Rawson said the center will provide an opportunity for Parkland families to get the best bang for their buck, while also having a place where they can also have their spiritual needs met.
“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.”
The center will host a daily Bible study every morning before opening its doors. They will be open to the public. Rawson added that the team members will also always be available for praying with individuals in need.
“We want to provide that Christian atmosphere when you’re there, to meet those needs,” she said.
The center will also provide an opportunity for area churches to join together while working toward the common goal of ministering to the needs of the community.
Store hours are Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sunday, Monday, closed. The store accepts cash, debit, credit and EBT.
For more information about volunteer opportunities with the Parkland Hope Center, call 573-327-9200. Follow the center on Facebook by searching @parklandhopecenter.