Sponsored by the First United Methodist Church, the Henry Center, 201 W. Lincoln St., provides free food, clothing, books and furniture to individuals in need.
“It’s like a store of sorts,” said Lynne Atkielski, one of the volunteers at the center. But, she said, there’s no bill waiting at the end of a visitor’s shopping spree.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the center provides free food items.
On Thursdays, from noon to 2 p.m., it also offers free clothing, sorted and displayed by volunteers.
“We also offer household items,” Atkielski said. “Individuals in need can get furniture items once every six months. Each person has a card on file and each individual can take a piece of furniture once every six months.”
Locals can also take advantage of the free library at the center, which offers hundreds of books for readers of any age.
“The initiative started 19 years ago, when a group of volunteers got together and initiated this pantry,” Atkielski said.
“We provide food for 25 families two times a week,” she said. “We also provide financial assistance for utility or rent bills.”
Anybody in need would be eligible for assistance, Atkielski said.
“We would help anybody from anywhere. We ask for the last four digits of their social security number, home address and a picture ID.”
Atkielski said the initiative wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of First United Methodist Church members.
“We get donations through the church,” she said.
The church owns the Henry Center building, and church members provide financial support and donate their time to ensure there is enough food for every member of the community.
A volunteer effort
“We have 11 active volunteers providing 100 hours a week of their personal time for the food pantry,” Atkielski said. “That doesn’t include the women and men organizing the clothes section.”
Rayleen Hendrix is one of those volunteers.
Hendrix has volunteered with the Henry Center for years, and said the hours she’s spent helping others have been rewarding – both for the recipients of the Henry Center volunteers’ efforts and for Hendrix herself.
“I knew there was a need,” she said. “And I also had health problems, so I needed an outlet.”
What motivates Atkielski to dedicate her time and efforts to helping those in need is “selfless nurturing,” she said.
“We go home and our hearts are bursting with love for our brothers and sisters,” Atkielski said. “That’s what we are doing – we are sharing love with our brothers and sisters. No matter who they are, what color they are, what tongue they speak, it’s a beautiful thing to see them smile. It’s amazing.”
The Henry Center accepts donations from anyone willing to assist.
For more information, call 931-455-5447.
Elena Cawley may be reached at email@example.com.