Cordele organization honored for feeding and housing those in need
FOX 31 continues to honor our local heroes with the Jefferson Awards.
The Jefferson Award is the nation’s longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to celebrating public service.
Hand of Hope is a church without walls in the words of owner Donna Stripling, July's honoree.
“We just want to help. Hand of Hope, we want to reach down and help somebody get up. We want to teach them. We want to be able to empower them with tools so that they can better themselves. And this is just part of what you see. We are whatever the need is,” Stripling said.
The organization in Cordele provides many things for the community from a thrift store and community garden to prayer sessions.
“If you’re an addict and you’re having issues, you can come here we can help get you placed. We have people that need to go the doctor and we have in place people that will carry them for cancer treatment. We have a social corner, if somebody is lonesome, we have people that will come and just talk with you,” Stripling said.
“She took me in when everybody else had put me out. She helped me to get back on track and she just taught me all about Jesus and unconditional love and showed me what it meant to really give second chances,” said Jody Kerr, friend of Donna Stripling. Kerr said she met Stripling while she was incarcerated and Stripling has been helping her and cheering her on since she was released.
And the foundation of everything Stripling does is her faith.
“The Lord saved me and the Lord blessed me and the Lord took me out of just terrible situation and so I just want to give back what the Lords given me. I just love people,” Stripling said. “So basically the Lord says if you have done any of these to the least of my brethren you have done it unto me and so we just try to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” she added.
“Just to see the help and heart that she has for everybody in the community and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or anything. She’s there for you. I mean you can see the Jesus in her,” Kerr said.
Hand of Hope has been up and running partly because of donations from family, friends and community members. But it is also kept functioning by Striplings other business.
“He’s rearranged everything in my life. I have Carters Fried Chicken. And so He enabled me by allowing me to have that business and putting good people in my life so they can run the store which helps to fund this place,” Stripling said.
The newest way Stripling is lending a hand is with micro houses.
“You know, it’s not the Taj Mahal but it’s a place. It’s a beginning,” Stripling said. “Well the Lord just spoke to us. There is a need in Crisp County. We have homeless people. We have people that just fall on hard times from time to time, people that come through need money to get where they’re going; need a bus ticket and so by having that house here on this property where they’ll be exposed to spiritual food as well as physical food and nurturing,” she added.
They also have a community garden. In the summer they let community members pick as many fruits and vegetables they want from the garden. They also take vegetables to some of the less privileged areas in Cordele. And reaching out is something they constantly do.
“We honored 17 families last Christmas and it was about 50 kids and we taught them the true meaning. It’s God giving his only son and we were able to give them gifts and teach them who Jesus is,” Stripling said. “We loaded the truck up with gifts from people giving money… we went to a place here where it’s kind of a dangerous place. And we got out of the truck and we gave Christmas gifts and hugged on them and told them Jesus loves you and we love you,” she added.
What keeps her going is a love for people.
“It’s just incredible to be able to help people and we do. We love and we want people to be safe and happy and to understand they are somebody no matter where you are, your circumstances in life. You are somebody you’re a child of the most high God. You’re royalty, Stripling said. “We’ve been here 10 months now and they’re really starting to understand, we truly love them. We truly love them,” she added.
Stripling said whatever they don’t use, goes to developing nations.
“What we cannot use, we send to third world. A company named Suncoast comes by and picks up the clothes, the shoes, the pocket books and they ship it overseas. So nothing goes wasted,” Stripling said.