The Helping Center in Marble Falls could use a hand itself

Dorothy 'Dot' Winslett (left) and Patsy Gray pack food bags at The Helping Center of Marble Falls that staff and volunteers will hand out to clients. The Helping Center is gearing up for the holiday rush, but the food pantry has seen demand on its services increase throughout the year. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — As Dorothy “Dot” Winslett packs items into individual bags to hand out to The Helping Center of Marble Falls’ clients, she pauses.

“Was I supposed to double-bag these?” she asks fellow volunteer Patsy Gray. Gray, who is working on bagging other items, stops her task and smiles.

“Yeah, we want to double-bag,” she says.

Winslett, 93, sighs. Gray smiles and walks around to help her friend.

“Oh, my, I think I’ll just go home,” Winslett says and then laughs. The two start repacking the items, both laughing and enjoying the moment.

The cadre of volunteers keep The Helping Center rolling. Gray, a retired Marble Falls Independent School District nurse, began volunteering a couple of years ago after retiring.

“I’m not someone who can just stay at home,” she said. “I need to be out and around people. And this is such a great way to help people out.”

Marj Kruse, a veteran volunteer of 10 years at The Helping Center, finds the idea of assisting people in the community a rewarding part of her regular Thursday volunteering. One of the things she’s noticed is the number of people who depend on The Helping Center.[box]TO HELP 
WHAT: Food drive by KBEY 103.9 FM and The Picayune
WHEN: Drop off food from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 20
WHERE: KBEY studio in Burnet, located at Washington and Main streets on the courthouse square
BENEFITS: The Helping Center in Marble Falls and LA Care in Burnet [/box]

“We have more clients now than when I started,” she said.

That increase has led to a bigger demand on the food pantry. And with the holidays approaching, director Sue Kennedy expects the need to keep increasing.

“We’re definitely going to need items to put in the holiday bags,” she said. “But we need just about everything, food and money.”

While The Helping Center serves as a place for people in southern Burnet County to turn to for food, it’s also where they can come if they’re struggling with utility payments. Kennedy noted more people are taking advantage of that service, but it comes at a financial cost to the food pantry.

“We’re giving out more and more help for people with bills,” she said. “When they come in here, it’s usually with bills of $200 to $300 and their service is about to get cut. So we try to help them. But it takes money we could use to buy food.”

On Nov. 20, KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune and The Picayune are holding a food drive at the radio station’s Burnet office, located at the corner of Main and Washington streets on the  Courthouse Square in Burnet, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. People can drop off non-perishable food and monetary donations. Those donations will benefit The Helping Center and LACare, a Burnet-area food pantry.

Kennedy said any help would be appreciated, especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching. Along with the non-perishable items for the holiday bags, The Helping Center tries to give clients turkeys or other meat. In years past, the Capital Area Food Bank has supplied much of the meat, but the amount has dwindled over the past several years.

This means The Helping Center must often spend its own cash to purchase turkey and meat off the store shelf (or out of the freezer). With those funds gone, The Helping Center staff might not have all it needs to help others with utility bills.

“So we really need help,” Kennedy said.

People can drop off donations at The Helping Center, 1315 Broadway St. in Marble Falls. And, if people have some spare time, the food pantry always welcomes volunteers.

“I really enjoy this,” Gray said. “The people make it a wonderful place to volunteer. We have a lot of fun. But we also really make a difference for the people who depend on The Helping Center for food. I just like helping people.”

daniel@thepicayune.com