Despite policies and programs created to help, poverty is on the rise in Virginia –that’s according to a recent report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that tracks the overall wellbeing of children in the United States. According to the report, more than 15% of the children in Virginia are living in poverty with a slightly higher average, just over 16%, here in the northern Shenandoah Valley.
Think there isn’t anything more you can do to help? There are a few local ladies who’d say you are wrong. Take Deloris Hines for instance. Deloris, age 47, resident of Frederick County and mom of two grown boys, works full-time and is also working towards her masters degree in professional counseling. While taking an evangelism class she had to provide an outreach ministry as assignment. Deloris chose to go to the local laundry mats. She’d hand out quarters to patrons to assist with laundry costs and she’d ask them if there was anything she could pray with them about. “I chose laundry mats because a lot of people at poverty level don’t have the facilities to do their own laundry so that’s where the go”, she said. In showing her care and concern she was often surprised at people’s willingness to discuss their problems and being open for prayer. “People are searching”, she said.
Meet Tessa Doherty. Tessa and Deloris are friends. Tessa is 37 years old and also resides in Frederick County. She’s married and has two school age children. Tessa works full time as a mortgage consultant and is actively involved with the local chamber, civic clubs and also frequents other networking events on a regular basis. One evening Tessa was talking with another friend, Caleana Nagel. Caleana was trying to create a way to reach out and bless local women. Realizing that children received toys through the Salvation Army and other places at Christmas time, Caleana felt there might be a need for moms who didn’t have money for things like shampoo, makeup and hairbrushes to take care of themselves.
“In one ear I’m hearing from Deloris about her work at the laundry mats. In the other, I’m hearing about Caleana’s desire to help women”, said Tessa. “So, I just put the two ideas together.” They reached out to their families and friends and started collecting slightly used full and travel size health and beauty items for women. Once they had a good supply, they loaded them up, headed to a local laundry mat and their group; Caring Hands of Prayer (CHOP) was born.
They generally try to meet up at a local laundry mat once per month and usually on Saturday mornings because they’ve noticed that it’s one of the busier times there. Space restraints require them to set up a table outside of the facility. Then, they just allow passersby to take what they need. They now give away all sorts of toiletries like deodorants, toothbrushes, floss and razors. They do give away some full sized containers but they believe sample sizes are easier for those that are walking and lugging their laundry as well as the homeless that come by their stand. They’ve also added bibles and devotionals and because men are coming through they added things for them like shaving cream and razors. Realizing the boredom kids must feel while sitting at the laundry mat for hours on end with their moms, they now give away coloring books and crayons too.
“Many times we go out and buy a lipstick, perfume or lotion and after finding that we don’t like them, they get shoved into a drawer or closet. Imagine what an item like that could do for a mom who’s about to go on a job interview! There’s a gap out there—a need for services that reflect these particular kinds of items,” said Doherty.
Not limited to just handing out merchandise, they also talk about Christ and offer to pray with those that are interested. Amanda Fletcher and Margie Craig, both local to the area, have joined their crusade and so CHOP is now five women strong. If you’d like to donate items, they’d be more than happy to arrange a pick up. Contact Tessa via email at: email@example.com.
Margie Craig is one of the newer members in the group. “I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy talking with strangers and hearing their stories. They’ve been a blessing to me and they’ve provided me with a deeper appreciation for my own life,” she said. Deloris agrees. “I believe we all need to step back and realize that we are humanity as a whole and we should be respecting each other, helping each other and looking out for one another.”
The members of CHOP invite you to think outside the box and figure out a way to help others in the community a little bit more. “We are all strapped for time but this only takes a few hours out of our month. It takes community involvement to make a difference,” they said.
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Tammy Batcha is a life-long resident of the Shenandoah Valley. A long-time commuter, she seeks to reconnect to her community. A board certified, health and wellness coach, she continues to study integrative nutritional theory while guiding others on a path to wellness.