Hope for families

Kathy Crist believes she is on a mission from God. Of course, the tenets of her faith tell her she is not alone in the assignment to help those in need.

“It’s our job as Christians to help these folks,” the Conway woman said.

The latest project to help is the collection of new and gently-used women’s purses and men’s bags along with travel size toiletries to fill them. Kathy, along with husband Jerry, founded Hope for Families & Veterans in Need about three years ago. The organization collects such things as clothing, furniture, household goods, towels, linens, coats, shoes, and more. Hope for Families donates the items to anyone who needs them.

That heart for helping those in need began less specific, but now expressly includes those in our communities who have served in the armed forces, many of whom are homeless. The Crists’ work closely with ECHO, the Eastern Carolina Homelessness Organization, as a means to distribute the items collected. ECHO serves 693 clients, with 80 percent of those in Horry County, according to its president and executive director Joey Smoak.

“Thank God for Kathy and Jerry,” Smoak said.

Hope for Families has delivered at least four full car loads of donated items for ECHO to distribute.

“I don’t know how they got that much stuff in a Chevy Tahoe. Some of the stuff still had the tags on it,” Smoak said.

Smoak credits the Crists’ church, Union United Methodist in Conway, and other faith organizations with being the backbone that keeps the donations coming in.

“I don’t know what some of the folks would do without them. If it weren’t for the faith-based communities, some people would be dying in the street,” he said. “It’s absolutely vital.”

ECHO always needs clothing and furniture as those items aren’t considered an eligible expense according to the guidelines of the grants that provide its funding. For the current donation drive of Hope for Families, men’s canvas bags or shave bags and men’s deodorant are particular needs. Other needed donations include travel size items such as shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer, emery boards, nail clippers, soap, lotion, Band-Aids, mouthwash, feminine hygiene products, disposable razors, chapstick, and small mirrors. Snacks like small packs of raisins, peanuts, crackers, granola bars, fruit cups, and applesauce are also good choices.

Giving is its own reward

Mrs. Crist uses the Hope for Families Facebook page to spread the word about what the group is up to. It’s working. Wendy Naramore, a former Myrtle Beach High School classmate of Crist’s, saw the Facebook pleas. Fourteen months later, Naramore is deep in the collection mode.

“I’m mainly the collector,” she says. “I’m the browbeater,” she adds with a laugh.

Naramore, currently of Garden City Beach, started working with Hope for Families by offering to help family and friends clean out their closets. The items in good condition are donated while Naramore hauls off the stuff that’s more than gently-used.

“We all need to clean out our closets,” she said. “It’s a win-win.”

Naramore has always enjoyed helping and considers giving to be her gift.

“There’s a need in our community for someone to give back. If we don’t give, we won’t receive either,” she said.

Her beliefs also prompt her to help.

“I don’t take a step without my faith,” she admits.

When your heart calls you to do something

Marsha Anderson of Conway also took the Facebook bait. The former manager of a bar in Murrells Inlet has witnessed the homelessness problem firsthand.

“Many of my customers were homeless alcoholics,” she said.

Relational in nature, Anderson got to know her clients and always made a point to share God with them in some way. Virgil, though, was hard to get to know. Anderson would pass him in the street on her way to and from work. He was in his mid to late 60s, alone with no family, a veteran, and had lost his legs. Her heart tugged to do something. Fearful, yet more compelled than afraid, she approached him to offer assistance with food.

He was rude to her, saying he only wanted money. Anderson left. But she came back with a bag of food with $5 in it. Marsha told Virgil he could have the $5, but he had to also take the food.

“There’s got to be a way to reach this man, and if giving him $5 to buy beer will do it, I’m going to do it,” she remembers resolving to herself. “He will not die without someone showing him the love of Christ.”

Every two weeks or so, Anderson gave Virgil a bag of food with $5 in it. He began to talk a bit more and so did Anderson. Then one day, he was no longer there when she would come by.

When Anderson saw the social media request for purses, bags, and toiletries, her heart was again obliged to be generous and began collecting items for the cause.

“I’ve gotten pocketbooks from people I don’t even know,” she said.

Kathy has a goal to bring in at least 100 filled bags by next month. “We will never collect enough to get to everyone out there,” she said.

Walk a mile in their shoes

Crist is no stranger to being in need. She and her husband have experienced some rough times in the past.

“I kind of saw both sides of it,” she recalls after medical conditions caused some employment restrictions. “We were struggling ourselves. Through that, we got to see the needs of the working man.”

Along with the purse and bag project, Hope for Families has collected and recently been able to donate one-man tents to the homeless, as well as blankets, coats, and winter clothing.

“This has been awesome,” Crist beams. “The way that God has led us in it.”

And He isn’t finished yet.

“God had His hands all over this little mission Kathy and Jerry started,” Naramore said.

She believes God will continue spreading the message and mission across the county.

For more information, contact Kathy or Jerry Crist at 843-397-4891 or visit the group’s Facebook page. To learn more about ECHO, visit here.