Hempstead Business Highlight: Get Acquainted with the House of Help

Assisting those in need is the way of things in Hempstead, and few organizations embody that calling as fully as the House of Help. A local thrift shop and food pantry that got its start in 2012, House of Help is all about looking out for its neighbors.

Food distributions keep tummies full, while thrift shop finds allow folks to snap up affordable prices on everything from clothing to home décor, and greeting cards to children’s toys. When weather turned frigid just a few weeks back, the nonprofit invited families in need to stop by to have their children fitted for free winter coats.

It’s a labor of love for Executive Director Sidney “Sid” Chipman and her tireless team of volunteers.

“I can’t take care of the world — I wish I could,” she said. “But you do what you can for the area where you live. If we all did that, I think we’d solve the puzzle.”

Volunteers organizing food donations in an article about Hempstead's House of HelpA resident of nearby Raccoon Bend, Sid’s passion for giving back began early on. Her mother set an example by being compassionate and giving, and as Sid grew up, she followed suit. She’s always been involved in social ministry, and is a 12-year veteran of the American Red Cross’ mass care and social efforts.

As for House of Help, it stemmed from community need.

Local religious organizations, including Sid’s home church, St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church, ran food pantries to help the hungry. When it was decided the operations should come together under one roof — an idea that sounded good in theory, but didn’t pan out — the closure left a void.

That’s when Sid leapt into action, acquiring a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, getting the ball rolling by sourcing food and finding volunteers eager to fill a need. House of Help opened its doors in November of 2012.

Although the endeavor got off to a slow start, a partnership with the Houston Food Bank helped things get off the ground. And the organization’s been helping Hempstead ever since.

In addition to food distributions and thrift store operations, House of Help finds other ways to give back.

Partnerships with Brookshire Brothers and Waller County, for instance, allowed the nonprofit to help get folks vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, with coat donations from the Knights of Columbus, House of Help provides warm winter gear to local kids each year. A medical grant allows them to help cover prescription and doctor visit costs, freeing up funds folks can use elsewhere. And since no child should go without a present on Christmas Day, the organization makes it a point to give gifts out annually, too. The number of presents distributed varies, but Sid said in 2020, about 452 children received gifts.

Of course, these past couple of years haven’t been smooth sailing for anyone, nonprofits included.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, House of Help found itself inventing new ways to continue serving the community. That meant the creation of a drive-through distribution system and the need to pivot operations to meet increased demand, especially at the lockdown’s start.

Volunteers inside Hempstead's House of Help food pantry“It goes back to service, and to trying to meet people’s needs,” Sid explained. “A lot of people were in positions they’d never been in before, and that’s an awful feeling to be so vulnerable.”

To protect the health of both volunteers and shoppers, House of Help also made the difficult decision to temporarily close the thrift shop which provides more than 85% of the charity’s income.

“We do get monetary donations and some grants, but our thrift shop is the main backbone we use to keep our doors open,” Sid said. “We lost that revenue for almost two years.”

Today, however, with the thrift store back open and life continually inching back toward normalcy, House of Help keeps moving forward. And, just like those children who receive Christmas gifts each year, the nonprofit has a wish list of its own.

Sid said she hopes to begin offering transportation for Hempstead residents with out-of-town doctor appointments. A larger building — one with space for a computer lab, added food storage or even a medical clinic — would also help continue their work. Their current location is a small building on Faith United Church’s grounds, which the church provides free of charge.

“We’re blessed and thankful for Faith United Church. But we need a little more space to offer more services,” she said. “We pray for it and ask God for it. It’s in His time — my time was yesterday, but that’s the way it is.”

At the top of their wish list is one important item: more volunteers.

House of Help is 100% volunteer run, and the organization can always use more help. From assistance with packing food bundles, to spending time at thrift shop, any help (and any amount of time a person can offer) is appreciated. Sid encouraged those interested to stop by in-person or fill out the online application.

“I joke with everyone that the pay is zero, but the benefits are heavenly,” she said with a laugh.

House of Help is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food distribution takes place on scheduled days during the month, although emergency assistance is always available. For more information, visit their website or Facebook page, or call 979.826.4445.

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