Heart for volunteerism at core of Care Help for 40 years

Published 5:30 am Monday, August 15, 2022

Care Help of Sulphur depends on volunteers to keep their organization alive, and volunteers depend on Care Help of Sulphur as an outlet for their altruism.

Care Help Executive Director Jody Farnum explained that a type of symbiotic relationship has formed between the nonprofit organization and local volunteers.

“There are two sides to it,” she said. “We need volunteers to really help our mission, but they are here because it fulfills their heart.”

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She continued by describing their desire to volunteer as chronic. “It’s like a heart condition. They know it is just so much better to give, so they come here because they just love people.”

This heart of volunteerism has been at the core of Care Help since the beginning. In 1984, after seeing an immediate need in the community to help families and individuals in emergency situations, Care Help of Sulphur was created. “In the very beginning, everything was strictly volunteers, even the director,” said Farnum.

This has been their mission over the last 40 years. However, Farnum explained that since 2020, this need has been greater than ever. “With the pandemic, hurricanes, the freeze, and the cost of living, things have been busy over here.”

Despite sustaining damages during Hurricane Laura and closing for six months, Care Help was still an active touchpoint for local volunteers. During the beginning of the pandemic, their food shelter remained open as an essential establishment. Farnum commended the many volunteers who showed up to help, despite the risk. “We really do play a huge role in our community,” she said. “People of all sorts showed up to help.”

People flocked to Care Help to volunteer because of their active assistance directly following Hurricane Laura. “We were just on the map, we were the only place in Sulphur really doing anything within 48 hours.”

Aside from continuing to providing 30,000 meals in 13 days during the first weeks after Hurricane Laura, as well as emergency supplies, Care Help participated in Project Rebuild, in which they spent $557,390.96 in donation money to help rebuild the homes, fortify roofs, and expedite recovery efforts in West Calcasieu.

Care Help has made great strides to expand their community outreach during this recovery period in Southwest Louisiana. Farnum stated that they have been able to expand their reach because the need is so great.

In 2020, Care Help offered $123,550 in cash assistance and $231,825 in non cash assistance, while in 2021 they offered $110,215 in cash assistance and $414,242 in non cash assistance.

Currently, Care Help provides food for 600 households every month. In addition to food assistance, they also assist qualifying households with rent, utilities, medicine, bus tickets, emergency hotel rooms, shoe gift cards, school supplies, and various gift cards for the elderly.

According to Farnum, last month alone, Care Help provided $2,900 in electric bill assistance. “Elederly people come to us that are on a budget,” she said. “They pay what they can pay, and we cover the rest. Or, we pay for all of it.”

They also host an array of local programs, such as Backpack Blessings, Community Christmas, and Kids Christmas Shopping day.

“We have such a big can of worms here. There are a lot of things that we do,” she said.

Care Help relies heavily on dedicated volunteers to keep their thrift store running. The thrift store is the main financial source for the organization, to ensure that they have the funding to help as many households as possible. “Everything we sell pays for administrative costs and payroll, all else goes back into the community,” she explained. “Grants or donations are completely given back to the community, we don’t touch those.”

The thrift store provided about 75 percent of Care Help funding.

“People volunteering and helping us do what we do generates the funding we need to help these people,” she continued. “Every piece of clothing tagged can help pay for a person’s electricity.”

Farnum commended their volunteers for their commitment to Care Help’s mission. “We have volunteers that have been here for over 20 years,” she said. “But, new volunteers are slim.

“Our volunteer base gets smaller and smaller. The volunteer base we do have, though, they are dedicated.”

She attributes this decrease in volunteerism to the difficult economic conditions. “Most people have to work two jobs to make ends meet, so they don’t have time to help volunteer.”

Farnum said Care Help is always looking for volunteers, and is grateful for any assistance that locals can provide.

For more information on volunteering or donations, please visit care-help.org.