HURST—After working for Radio Shack 25 years, when the company closed about 1,500 of its stores, Sherry Roe was without a job.
But she understands that when one door closes, God can open another one.
Initially, since she had time to volunteer, she inquired about her church food pantry. Then John Bobo, former manager of the east branch of NEED—North East Emergency Distribution—hired her as manager of the Tarrant County crisis-assistance ministry about two years ago.
Bobo, who has dedicated years to NEED, continues to pick up groceries and perform many activities at the center.
“He makes my job easier,” Roe said.
Meeting crisis with a caring heart
NEED sees its mission as being the place “where crisis relief is met with a caring heart.” The ministry secures food and personal hygiene products to assist people who are trying to recover from a crisis.
NEED East serves people in six ZIP codes in the Hurst, Euless and Bedford area, about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth. Another NEED location serves the Haltom City area, closer to downtown Fort Worth.
“We are mainly a food pantry for hunger relief,” Roe said. “We help people whose income is below the Emergency Food Assistance Program income eligibility guidelines. In addition to food, we provide hygiene products.”
As of mid-August, NEED East had served 4,748 families and logged 12.5 million volunteer hours this year.
Realizing low-income people have other needs besides food, NEED helps with electric and water bills once a year. People can receive assistance for prescriptions three times a year, up to a certain threshold.
Once a month, on a particular day, seniors can pick up groceries to supplement their food needs.
A thrift shop next door, Twice Blessed, donates money to NEED. Each Tuesday, seniors 65-years and older receive 25 percent off their purchases.
Churches provide support, volunteers
NEED partners with Tarrant Baptist Association and receives monthly support from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.
Often, people with a low-income must decide to buy either needed medicine or food. Programs like NEED can help people have a better life, Roe noted.
“We have a number of churches in the area that we rely on to keep their congregation informed of our needs,” she said. “These churches support us with donations, and especially volunteers.”
Several churches provide teams who work a specific day of the month. When volunteers move or become disabled, there always is someone to step up and take their place, Roe added.
“God answers prayers,” she said.
So, she is praying God will send volunteers who have skills and abilities such as grant writing, computer expertise and business experience. Volunteers who have time and a truck also are needed to pick up food from groceries and restaurants.
Grounded in prayer
Roe stressed the importance of prayer at NEED.
“I pray every morning before coming to work for those people coming in for assistance. I pray they will be blessed with whatever they may need and that we will be a blessing for them,” she said.
“The staff and volunteers make friends with the people. Therefore, they ask for prayers for medical issues, unemployment issues, family problems … the same as all people share. Often, the men and women come into the office, stand by the cubicles, and we pray together.”
Several homeless people seek assistance at NEED.
“We try to give them food that will not spoil easily and that will not be too heavy to carry,” Roe said. “I make sure I keep can openers in my desk, in case they need to use one.”
The center does not make lunches or prepared meals, so they take the food items with them.
Expressions of gratitude
Roe said working with NEED has changed her life.
“Until I came here, I did not know how many people in the area were in crisis,” she said. “It’s not just one demographic. … It is people from all over the world. It, of course, makes me realize that ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Some of the people who receive food and assistance write thank-you notes to NEED.
One client wrote: “Thank you for being there when I needed food. Never knew or thought that telling you my problems would be God sending me this solution.”
Another person wrote: “Thanks for your help to the local community of the HEB area. What would we do without you? You are earth angels!”
Carolyn Tomlin writes for the Christian market and teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writers.
This is part of an ongoing series about how Christians respond to hunger and poverty. Substantive coverage of significant issues facing Texas Baptists is made possible in part by a grant from the Prichard Family Foundation.