The Grove Christian HELP Center has long served Delaware County residents with food assistance but now the ministry is expanding its services and offering educational life skills programs.

Mission Director Anna Shaw, along with the Ministerial Alliance that governs the Center, has overseen a refurbishing of parts of the HELP Center building and is implementing the programs.

“We were using two-thirds of our building for our HELP Center and the other section was open and had offices in the front,” said Shaw. “We thought that at some point we could rent that out to another not-for-profit entity.

“Then we had this idea to build some classroom space,” Shaw continued. “So we divided up some of our warehouse and put up walls and laid down floors, and everything else that goes with it, and now those are all completed.”

With the construction finished the HELP Center can begin to use the updated facilities to serve the community in new ways.

“One of the things we need in our area is a crisis-pregnancy center for young people,” said Shaw. “We went before the Ministerial Alliance and gave them our proposal for opening a center like this in Grove. It was approved and it will be called the Abundant Blessing Center, or ABC.”

Linda Smith, a member of the Grove Christian Center, will handle the day-to-day duties of the ABC. Smith has a Master’s in counseling. Aside from being certified in several different areas of counseling Smith has also served as a mid-wife.

“The ABC will be doing outreach to young ladies in need of this type of center and it will also offer support groups for girls that have already had their child but are still in high school,” Shaw said. “We can also help adults who have children and are struggling and needing some additional counseling.

“It’s also going to have a support group offered for women who have had abortions and are looking for some counseling help,” said Shaw. “Whatever the reason was, no matter what age or socio-economic group they come from, it (abortion) has an impact on the rest of their lives. And they need our support, our love, and our concern.”

The ABC has received help in organizing its agendas and action plans from groups such as Focus on the Family and Care Net. Other pregnancy centers in Joplin have also contributed ideas and advice.

“We’ve got a lot of resources behind us as far as what we can bring to these girls,” said Shaw.

Setting up a crisis pregnancy center such as ABC requires many things and chief among them is the myriad of paperwork involving issues such as taxes, by-laws, and other miscellaneous legal work. The ABC has already cleared those hurdles.

“They say it takes 18 months to get something like this started,” said Shaw. “We were able to skip ahead- probably about nine months of that- because we’re going to go under the same umbrella that the HELP Center is under, and that’s the Ministerial Alliance. They will be the administrative body. So all of the paperwork, taxes and legal’s, all of that has been done.”

Some aspects of the ABC are still being completed. The ABC will offer young mothers and couples some essentials of child-rearing such as car seats, booster chairs, and cribs. The hope is eventually to have acquired enough materials, through donations, so as to have a lending library of goods for clients to use and re-distribute.

“Some parts are a little way off,” said Shaw, “but as far as the support time and counseling time, we can start that off immediately.”

Besides the ABC the HELP Center building will also begin offering different classes ranging from the fun- a sewing class; to the essential- a cooking class and a life skills class.

“We wanted to offer some classes that would be an outreach to the community and that could really help people,” said Shaw. “Sewing is the first one we’ve started and it’s called ‘A Beginner’s Sewing Class.’

“All of the materials are provided,” Shaw said. “We’re going to be making a raggedy quilt.”

Attendees of the class learn how to operate sewing machinery, cut fabric, and lay out designs.

“The lady that’s doing this for us is Lee Ann Goodman,” said Shaw. “She also teaches some classes on the history of quilting so there’s a little bit of teaching going on as well as the fun of learning the basic skills and creating something.”

The lessons deal in straight-seam sewing and don’t delve into anything too fancy.

“But,” said Shaw, “once a person learns the basics they can go forward. A lot of people don’t know how to sew on a button, so this program is a really good first step.”

At the conclusion of the class the attendees will have completed their quilt and the HELP Center will give each student a sewing basket complete with the necessary sewing tools to carry out their newfound skills.

“We’ve got some plans for some other classes,” said Shaw. “We’ve got some budgeting classes in the works.

“We’ve also got some other class ideas that deal with life skills,” Shaw continued. “Things like how to enter an application for employment on-line, how to write a resume, and how to dress for an interview.

“A lot of people are hard working folks,” Shaw said, “who just don’t know the next step.”

In keeping in line with the original concept of the HELP Center the mission plans on offering some cooking classes as well.

“One is called ‘Cooking without a stove’ and another is called ‘Cooking with Commodities’,” said Shaw. “Our generation cooked from scratch but a lot of the younger families that we see today are used to packaged meals and quick meals.”

One meal that the HELP Center will be serving up again this year is their Thanksgiving baskets. The goal this year is to acquire enough food to provide 100 of the full family-sized Thanksgiving meals to the community.

“The basket is a full Thanksgiving dinner,” said Shaw. “It comes with a turkey, dressing mix, mashed potatoes, rolls, all the vegetables and desserts.”

The HELP Center begins signing up families for the baskets on November 1st and distribution takes place at the Center on November 20th, the Thursday before Thanksgiving.

“Our churches in the area really come together and donate to this program,” Shaw said. “We send out a letter with a list of what we need and then the churches respond.

“It’s amazing the way it all comes together and it’s such a nice thing to be able to give to people,” said Shaw.

The HELP Center is still staying busy with its original mission of providing food assistance to families and individuals. The Center provides seven days worth of food for a family of four up to six times in a twelve month period. The current economic crisis has affected the Center.

“We buy a lot of our food from the Tulsa Food Bank,” Shaw said. “It’s wonderful for us because we can buy $9 worth of food for $1. However, the big companies that distribute and give food to the Tulsa Bank has really slowed down. They just don’t have the contributors like they used to.”

Still, the Center has been able to carry on.

“I’ve been looking for some other outlets and we are making contacts with a place in Arkansas and another in Missouri,” said Shaw.

A large reason that the HELP Center has been able to overcome the current economic trends rests with the community that the Center serves.

“The community has been phenomenal in helping us,” said Shaw. “Food drives, donations, volunteer work, and help in lots of other ways.

“People are looking to help any way they can and we have an organization here, and a plan, and so people know where to come.”

The HELP Center is located east of Grove on Highway 10. Business hours are 10 AM to 2 PM Monday through Thursday. For more information about any aspect of the HELP Center and its missions call 786-6798.