Note: This post is the second in a monthly series of spotlights on North Texas Food Bank member agencies in our 13-county service area. Stay tuned to learn more about the work that these wonderful organizations are doing in your area.
This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, a versatile organization in West Dallas. Serving approximately 125 families per day, Brother Bill’s serves the 75212 zip code in a number of ways – medical clinics, a grocery store, nutrition classes, and summer lunches for kids.
From the time that you walk into the building, the sense of community and warmth is evident. Volunteers and staff alike are busy sorting food on shelves, moving boxes, and preparing grocery bags for their “neighbors,” – the clients that they serve each day.
Suzanne Griffin, Executive Director of Brother Bill’s, is a true dynamo. She buzzed around the building, making sure operations were going smoothly, greeting volunteers, and perhaps most importantly, being on hand to offer a smile, hug, or handshake to neighbors awaiting their time in the grocery store.
The way Brother Bill’s operates is truly unique – established in the late 1940s by a West Dallas Baptist minister named Bill Harrod, provides services to the community in a way that “really provides dignity,” said Griffin.
When I arrived, there was already a full lobby of people waiting to pick out their groceries. Griffin walked into the waiting area, greeted her neighbors, and proceeded with some news updates and a devotional. She also had some particularly exciting news to share regarding their efforts to build a new facility: in just 4 months, the organization had raised $2.6 million of their goal.
Then, neighbors were released into the grocery store area, got their carts, and began strolling up and down the aisles, choosing from rice or beans, ketchup or cocktail sauce, brownies or cornbread. Mason Smith, Assistant Director of Brother Bill’s, explained that the variety of food on their shelves was to provide families with choices that met their needs and own personal tastes.
The shoppers were paired with “greeters,” volunteers that talked to their neighbors, assisted them with their carts, and got updates on their lives, children, jobs, and more. Hugs and handshakes were going around the room. It was as if they were greeting old friends.
Suzanne introduced me to a few people that had some really inspiring stories. Mr. Calvillo, a long-time resident told me how Brother Bill’s helped save his life. Calvillo, a truck driver having difficulty finding work, first came to Brother Bill’s for food assistance.
Then, he had a visit at their Adult Clinic, where internists volunteer their time to treat and examine patients. The doctor determined that Calvillo had cancer, and that he needed surgery. Calvillo was reluctant to undergo the treatment, but Brother Bill’s organized a volunteer effort – combining doctors and hospitals, to provide him with this life-saving procedure.
I also spoke to Felix, a member of the organization’s Community Council, which provides community input to the organization. Felix was a lively man, who spoke fondly of what this organization had done for his neighborhood. He told me that the programs that Brother Bill’s operated were keeping kids healthy and away from drug or gang violence.
Ida, a community volunteer, was also gracious enough to tell me the story of how she came to need Brother Bill’s. You can watch it here:
Other than nutritional assistance, Brother Bill’s helps their neighbors in immeasurable ways – providing “Birthday Party in a Bag” for kids, job training for women, ESL classes, and more.
To learn more about Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, please visit their Web site: www.bbhh.org