Abiding Hope offers hope to Vincent

Kurt Russell, president of Abiding Hope Ministries, works diligently to supply both food and clothing to people in need in the Vincent community. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

VINCENT – Abiding Hope Ministries is providing more than hope for the people of Vincent.

Starting in the fellowship hall of the church he was pastoring, Kurt Russell and his wife, Jan, began Abiding Hope in 2002, but didn’t officially incorporate until 2005. Now, the ministry holds Friday bread days as a means of serving its community.

“The Publix stores have been very generous in helping the various charities around (the community). We have our own group and our own day. We go to Publix on Friday before 7 a.m.,” Kurt said. “We go get it, come back here and sort it. People are already in line when we get back.”

The bread, pastries and chips are pantry staples for those in need.

“There’s a spiritual concept to (the bread) – Jesus being the bread of life. Bread is readily available to the charities if we’re willing to go get it,” Kurt said.

“To get canned goods and other types of food, a person has to qualify,” Kurt added. “There’s not an infinite amount of money. We’re restricted by the donations we receive.”

In having people qualify for support, the couple can choose the people they believe actually need the help, and they can fulfill their mission of feeding those who truly need the food, Kurt said.

“The people who come to our Friday bread day, 99 percent are in need,” Kurt said. “We have a lot of people tell us as they’re going through the line that they don’t know what they’d do without this ministry. That helps encourage us.

“It’s not that we don’t want to give food to everybody who asks us. It’s just that we have a finite amount of food to give away,” Kurt added, “so we want to make sure it goes to and helps the right people.”

The ministry isn’t trying to provide food to fill entire pantries, but enough to supplement grocery lists for people who can use limited resources to buy staples other than the bread and canned food provided by the ministry.

“A lot of confusion is, even in our volunteers, that they think we need to give them food to last, like going to the grocery store,” Jan said. “We keep telling them, ‘This is just a holdover to help you out. It’s not to fill your pantry for the next month, and it can’t possibly be.'”

With the economic downturn, the couple has seen a rise in people coming to qualify for the staple foods the ministry offers. If they qualify, people receive assistance once a month, on top of Friday bread days.

“People, when they get to this stage, are often very reserved,” Jan said. “They’re embarrassed to a point, and they didn’t really want to come in, but they had to. You just kind of have to pull the personality out of them.”

Her husband agrees with her.

“And you want to try to get to know them and hold everybody up to a dignified standard even though they’re in here in ragged clothes,” Kurt added. “Treat them like a human being. I’ve heard about places they go into a charity and they’re treated just like a number.”

On top of the economic downturn, other factors are putting pressure on the ministry’s donations.

“Another thing beside food and clothing, we say to people, ‘Give us anything,’ Kurt said. “We would love to have used appliances. The big appliance stores say they’ll pick up and dispose of (the old appliances), when there might be 10 years more use out of them. That’s hurt more than the economy.”

In addition to donations, the couple asked for female volunteers to assist with the ministry.

“We had lady volunteers before, and mostly they’d be sorting clothes,” Jan said. “Sometimes the clothes are dirty or smoky, and it’s not a real fun job or clean job. Some of the women don’t want to bother with it.”

Kurt sees a deeper issue than dirt and smoke.

“And sometimes the women see something they’ve never seen before. They see poverty,” he added. “We just have to get the right mindset.”

To volunteer or make donations to Abiding Hope, call the Russells at 672-2827 for more information.