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Mahjong tournament raises $22,000 for Helping Center

Marble Falls mahjong tournament

Over 100 mahjong players raised $22,000 for The Helping Center of Marble Falls during a tournament on April 11 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Courtesy photo

The Helping Center of Marble Falls received a $22,000 donation from a mahjong tournament fundraiser April 11 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. The money will bolster the Learn for Life program, the center’s educational wing.

Learn for Life includes lessons on wellness, cooking demonstrations, and other programs designed to educate and uplift residents who rely on The Helping Center’s services. The program also helps break generational cycles of poverty by giving families and individuals resources they otherwise would not receive.

“Getting to a sustainable point is almost always the hardest part,” said Helping Center Executive Director Sam Pearce. “To get settled, you have to have money in your pocket. Therefore, if they can come here and save $200 a week on food, and then we equip them with the proper information on things like how to budget and eat right, we can really start helping reverse some things.”

Over half of the money the center received from the April 11 tournament stemmed from individual donations, Pearce said.

“The beautiful thing was it was a $90 entry for 100 people, so that’s just $9,000,” he said. “That extra $13,000 came from beyond. They had a little raffle, but from my understanding, people were just in there giving.”

The Helping Center provides food for struggling families and individuals. In the month of March, the center served 6,000 individuals and a record-setting 1,975 families.

“When I first started working here, we did maybe 300 families a month,” Pearce said. “I was predicting a 10 to 20 percent increase for the summer, and it’s already hit.”

An ongoing nationwide food crisis has ravaged central food banks, making it harder for local pantries to stock their shelves at a smaller cost.

“(The food banks) just don’t have product,” Pearce said. “There are food shortages all over the country. We’re having such a hard time getting food from the food bank, we’ve had to start purchasing on our own.”

However, community support such as the mahjong tournament and individual donors have ensured The Helping Center remains a place for food, fellowship, and education.

“We’re in a growing area that continues to need assistance,” Pearce said. “We have enough food. We’re going through extreme measures to buy and get it, but that’s why people give us money. They know we need it and they know we know what to do with it.”

To learn more about the Learn for Life program or to donate food or money, visit The Helping Center, 1016 Broadway in Marble Falls, or the organization’s website