Dutilh Church Volunteers Make God’s Love Tangible at the Center for Hope
Although Dutilh Church’s involvement at the Center for Hope in Ambridge dates back to 2008, many in the community do not realize the steady service and faithful outreach provided by Dutilh’s members each month.
Clyde Cameron has been involved with this ministry since 2012 and serves as the main point of contact for a small but committed group of volunteers who travel monthly to Ambridge to help out. Dutilh’s Center for Hope Ministry team currently includes John Morgan, Bob Boren, Keith and Dana Bucci, Richard Easterling, and John Tubridy.
The Center for Hope is a multi-denominational faith-based charity founded by the United Methodist Church in Ambridge that has grown to include a food pantry, programs for families, adults, teens, and youth, a clothing closet, supplemental nutrition for low-income senior citizens, and even pet supplies for families struggling with economic hardship.
Dutilh’s Center for Hope ministry team works primarily at the food pantry, Cameron explained, and the focus is on direct service to the clients. Volunteers try to make the experience as pleasant as possible for individuals in need of help.
“People who come to the food bank get a grocery cart and can choose their items. The goal is to help people have a choice about what food they get so they have a sense of dignity.”
The volunteer team typically arrives by 9:00 a.m. and leaves around 3:30 p.m. Their morning begins with prayer and a meeting with the director. Often, a Center for Hope client will share a story about how the organization has helped him or her.
Dutilh’s volunteers often serve as food pantry escorts—helping clients choose their grocery items—or by bagging groceries. Clients have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, non-perishable food, and many other items typically found in grocery stores.
“A big part of this ministry is interacting with the clients,” Cameron explained. “It’s like being part of a family—we get to know and interact with people. When I leave, I feel good about being part of that experience and I hope it helps the clients feel good, too.”
Dutilh’s fabric ministry, led by Louise Warner, Barb Barnett, and Sherry Cameron, provides another humanizing touch to an experience that has the potential to be difficult for clients. Fabric ministry volunteers create the bags that are given to Center for Hope clients to carry their groceries.
About two months ago, this group of self-proclaimed “Bag Ladies” began making fabric tote bags for clients at the Center for Hope. They meet at Dutilh the first Wednesday of each month from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. to cut, sew, and iron the tote bags. In addition to Barnett, Cameron, and Warner, the regular cohort of volunteers includes Jan Andree, Sherry Cameron, Peggy Dressler, Mary Grafton, Joanne Melder, Rachael Oltrogge, and Kay Rimer.
Other volunteers help as they are able, and Warner said fabric and funding for the bags is donated by members of Dutilh Church.
“We are able to make good use of the church’s contributions to assist people at the Center for Hope,” Warner explained. “We are glad to be able to participate in this ministry.”
For Cameron, some of the best parts of volunteering at the Center for Hope are the relationships he has developed with fellow volunteers and with the clients.
“When you work with people regularly, you get to know people in your church better,” Cameron explained.
One of Cameron’s most memorable moments with the Center for Hope ministry occurred a few months ago. Cameron said a woman and her son, who is autistic, are regulars at the food bank. On this particular day, the young man approached Cameron and Boren and gave each a hug.
“He has been coming for years,” Cameron said. “For him to come give us a hug meant a lot.”
Cameron said the volunteers continue to serve each month as an extension of their faith.
“We do it because we love God,” he said. “We want to serve and make this world a better place to live because we care about others.”
The Center for Hope offers an array of volunteer activities, and Cameron suggested that anyone interested in coordinating another small group of volunteers could contact its director to find out more about the center’s needs and volunteer options. Dutilh Church members interested in joining an already-existing group may contact Barnett or Warner to get involved with making grocery bags for the center.