Community Helping Hands

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Article Contributed by
Lisa Yaggie

Community Helping Hands’ mission is to help empower people to help themselves and those around them. More and more, it is apparent that society needs places like Community Helping Hands (CCH) to help fulfill our longing for connection. You can find equal amounts of getting and giving on any given day.

Their motto of “giving a hand up” speaks to the importance of maintaining a sense of dignity when one has to seek out help. The two avenues of assistance at Community Helping Hands (CHH) are their thrift store, known on-site as “The Depot,” and their workforce development initiative.

Shawn Witmer, Interim Director & Joalexis Martir, Workforce Development Coordinator

Mission
Shawn Witmer, interim Director at CHH, encourages “everyone to stop in and shop” at the Depot. All items have price tags and you can browse through clothes, books, household items, appliances and furniture.

“Shoppers help keep the electricity on” Witmer says with a smile. Organizations, churches and agencies can refer people in need and those with vouchers can pick up much needed items. Witmer adds that they often work with the Red Cross, who provides vouchers to fire victims.

The group recently helped a Puerto Rican family who had to move here after the devastating Hurricane Maria displaced them this past September. CHH has a truck, driven by volunteers, which will come pick up items that you want to donate. Witmer notes that this in itself is a community service.

“Often times, kids will have to come in from out of town and clean out a deceased parent’s home, or maybe they are just downsizing. Whatever the reason, CHH is willing to come to the home and pick up donations.” Witmer adds that making a donation is really the start of building a relationship with CHH. And building relationships is key to their continued success.

Shelley Stahlman, 1st Floor Team Leader, Volunteer 10 ½ years, showing some of the super cool 80’s themed dresses in The Depot

Faith
An integral part of what CCH does is to incorporate faith into their operations. Joalexis Martir, full-time Work Force Coordinator, related one of his favorite moments at CHH occurred after their building was broken into. He treasures this difficult moment because he says it was the time he truly “got” what they do there at CHH.

“A group of us here, gathered together and prayed for the individuals who broke in. We prayed that they would realize that there was another way for them, that we would’ve helped them with open arms if they had chosen to come in and start a conversation with us.” Martir works with individuals on public assistance find employment success. He spends many worthwhile hours training on the basic soft skills (like being on time, good attendance, proper attire and hygiene, having a positive attitude and self-confidence).

Shelley Stahlman, 1st Floor Team Leader, Volunteer 10 ½ years, showing some of the super cool 80’s themed dresses in The Depot

Fun!-draising
It is important to note that CHH relies solely on the community for its support through donations, purchases and fundraisers.

Every November, CHH hosts the EMPORIUM – an indoor flea market/rummage sale/craft show to help families in need. Their brand new fundraiser will be held Saturday, March 3 at Chautauqua Suites in Mayville, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. An 80’s Rewind Party, with all the “totally awesome” music and outfits, offers a fun night out for all to enjoy. Guests are encouraged to dress up from the decade (some people, like this author, might even still have their prom dress somewhere) but it is not required.

There will be a contest with $500 cash prize for the best group in costume and $250 for the best overall individual costume. “Rad” music provided by Star Sirch Productions will help keep the party rockin’.

Tickets for this unique event may be purchased from Trinity Guitars @ 800 W. 3rd St, Labyrinth Press Company @ 12 E. 4th St, at Community Helping Hands @ 31 Water Street or most conveniently, on line at www.chhny.org. Tickets are $50 each and include a scrumptious buffet dinner.

Community Impact
Community Helping Hands is located on Water Street in Jamestown as part of the Gateway Center, also home to Laser Tag, Batting Cages and a BMX/Skate Park. The building itself is a spectacularly renovated old four floor factory building. The much-loved Family Center is on the 2nd floor and can be used by groups for meetings, church youth group events, or birthday parties.

When asked what his favorite moment at CHH has been, Witmer lit up and shared a new undertaking that CHH is investigating with STEL and the YWCA. “The board and staff are looking at the possibility of turning the vacant 3rd and 4th floors of the building into permanent supportive housing for women and a jail diversion program.

The 80’s party/fundraiser will give us a jump start on the funding for this project.” Shawn, who has been the Facility Manager for the previous nine years before taking on the Interim responsibilities, loves the idea of putting all that square footage to such good use. He sees the lofts as having a really important role in the community.

“We are centrally located, near shopping, the hospital, doctors, and the high school.” He is really excited to think that the building will be 100% useable and his enthusiasm is contagious! “Every day is growth here; we adapt and build and address each ministry as it comes to us. We have endless amounts of work to do and welcome all volunteers.” There is so much need and so many opportunities to support Community Helping Hands achieve all their dreams and continue to build meaningful relationships.

Learn More
Jamestown Gazette readers are invited to log on to http://www.chhny.org/, call (716) 487-1488, email to office.chh@gmail.com or simply stop in to visit, chat or shop at 31 Water Street Jamestown, NY, Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.