JACKSONVILLE — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a four-part series about the H.O.P.E organization in advance of their upcoming fundraiser.
When members of the local ministerial alliance first proposed a central clearing house in 1991 that would minister to those in need, they never dreamed what H.O.P.E. would blossom into.
“We had no way of knowing it would be what it is today, or have the support or the number of volunteers we do today, or even the recognition it's gotten in the community,” said the Rev. Barbara Hugghins, who 23 years ago was involved in lay ministry at First United Methodist Church, then located in downtown Jacksonville. “H.O.P.E. is a respected organization.”
According to Hugghins, now assistant pastor at FUMC and a member of H.O.P.E.'s board of directors, the idea first came about after ministers of the downtown churches – First United Methodist, Central Baptist, First Baptist – decided that rather than continue going on a case-by-case basis to First National Bank, where Frank Waggoner would disburse funds from a special account, they would set up a program to address the needs of people who approached them.
“People would come downtown, because the churches were there,” she recalled. “The ministers decided they needed a central clearing house, so H.O.P.E. was formed.”
Helping Others Pursue Enrichment was founded in 1991 by Raymond and Eloise Teague, and started with the help of Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance, according to a 2011 story by the Jacksonville Daily Progress.
“It began on a card table in the radio station with a phone line and a volunteer to answer the phone,” Hugghins said. “Pretty soon, Fran Daniel was hired on a part-time basis as the director of H.O.P.E. It was very humble beginnings, a very meager budget, very few volunteers, but many, many needs in the community.”
The newspaper account describes the fledgling ministry as having two programs – Coats for Kids and a food pantry – along with some funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to meet those needs.
Board members visited soup kitchens in Palestine and Longview when “we decided we really needed to do that, too,” Hugghins said.
Bolton Street Christian Church volunteered use of its fellowship hall, “and we started out with sandwich or crockpot meals – I think we first served 10 or 12 people, and different churches provided the food,” Hugghins said.
“Again, it was a very meager beginning, with no budget at all,” she added. “Marge Avera was responsible for getting that program started.”
Today, the reverend said she's pleasantly surprised by how H.O.P.E. has expanded its services.
“Our goal was to be a central clearing house that people could go to, rather than making the rounds of individual churches. We also wanted to provide a hand up, not a hand out, because the programs would help people help themselves,” she said.
H.O.P.E. is funded through the United Fund of Cherokee County and private donations, and today includes programs such as life enrichment and money management classes, the Manna Pantry, a brown bag program that provides food staples to qualifying elderly and disabled clients, a weekend backpack program for Jacksonville ISD elementary students, health screenings and van transportation.
HOPE is also heavily involved with an annual Back to School Fair held prior to the start of school each August, in which students receive free school supplies.
“As needs change, and as the community changes, H.O.P.E. Tries to keep abreast, keep current with the community, and they've always worked closely with churches, the Clothes Closet, with health providers and others in the community,” Hugghins pointed out. “I'm proud that the community can come together – both individuals and churches – to assist those seeking help.”
Plans are underway for the Castle on the Lake event benefitting H.O.P.E. on Saturday, April 12. Doors open at 6 p.m., followed by a live auction at 7 p.m.
There also will be a silent auction and an opportunity to purchase Surprise Boxes containing special gifts. New this year is a Wine Pull, in which guests will have an opportunity to purchase corks that are matched to bottles of wine donated for the event. Tickets are $50 per person and include dinner and dancing.
The event is the largest fundraiser for H.O.P.E and is held every other year at the Castle on the Lake in Jacksonville.