Watching inspiration bloom and come to fruition is a beautiful thing.
Gail Pelote’s journey from class to the creation of the Helping Hand Ministry at the North Hollywood Church of Religious Science is a lesson in listening to your heart, taking action and opening up to compassion. Her work, and those of the volunteers who have joined her, is making a real difference in the lives of families in the San Fernando Valley.
Let’s meet Gail:
How did the Helping Hand Ministry come about?
The Helping Hand Ministry came about as a result of me taking a class at the North Hollywood Church of Religious Science called “Living Your Life’s Purpose”. In the class we created a “Sacred Covenant” over the course of 10 weeks. My Sacred Covenant showed that I was to become a Licensed Practitioner at the church and then create a ministry that helps low income and homeless folks. Dr. Mark asked me to start the ministry as soon as he read my Covenant, which was in 2011.
How did you personally become involved?
I created the Ministry so I was involved from the beginning. My friend Jan Eddy discovered North Valley Caring Services, where The Helping Hand serves. He took me there the first time and introduced me to the magical place.
Why was the organization created?
I feel like The Helping Hand Ministry was divinely created. I believe in the teaching of Mother Teresa that if you can’t feed 100, feed one.
Tell me about The Helping Hand Ministry and its programs
We started out helping fill North Valley’s food pantry, we then rounded up volunteers who could do homework with the children in the after school program. We then ventured out into collecting slightly used clothing for the homeless folks, creating a team who gathers the clothes, another team that organizes the clothing, and then I distribute the clothing one morning a week. We also have volunteers that help cook breakfast for the homeless folks, and others that help put on holiday parties.
What are your goals for the next 5 years?
My goal is to get more volunteers involved. So many folks want to help but just don’t know how or where. The Helping Hand Ministry provides volunteers with a place to go every week that encourages them to help others, using talents that they have.
What do you personally spend most of your time doing with The Helping Hand Ministry?
I’m involved with every aspect of the ministry. I interact and support the volunteers, my husband and I collect and haul the clothing, I personally spend Wednesday mornings at North Valley with the homeless folks giving out the clothing and interacting with them. I keep records of all donations and report to North Valley at the end of the year so they can sent out tax receipts. I also interact with the staff at North Valley. I also spearhead a Christmas party for around 200 folks every year.
What inspires you about The Helping Hand Ministry, perhaps a specific story or program?
I interact weekly with the homeless population and there are quite a few stories that touch me with every visit.
What inspires me is how nice and lovely the recipients are. I hear many uninformed folks disparaging homeless people. Most of our population are kind and loving and just have a hard time maneuvering through the day. Some are shell shocked by war, some just don’t have the capacity to advocate for themselves. This is where kindness comes in. A smile, a hello, a handshake, eye contact make all the difference. It’s a gift we give to each other.
Give me a way you’ve seen the work done by The Helping Hand Ministry make a difference.
I have had angry gang members come in and try to start trouble. I tell them that I am going to kill them with kindness. I watch them melt and become respectful and a part of the community, sometimes helping out around the property.
I had a lady and her 17 year old daughter come in last week. They fled their home because of domestic violence. I was able to give her information about places she could go for help. We let them park their car overnight on the property so they could be safe. We gave them fresh clothing and a hot breakfast. She actually helped me refold clothes at the end of my day. We talked and I got to support her. Now I pray she’s safe and got the help she needs.
I leave the center joyful every week.
What are some areas of opportunity for your organization? How can readers get involved?
The Helping Hand Ministry is run through North Hollywood Church of Religious Science. The volunteers that I oversee all go to our church.
Anyone not affiliated with our church can contact me and I’ll be able to help them get in touch with the proper channels to volunteer.
If there are any readers who want to start their own charity in their area, I’m happy to help them get started.
How has The Helping Hand Ministry evolved and improved over time?
We’ve grown from doing homework with the kids after school to working with and cooking for the homeless folks. We help stock food for their food pantry, that now serves 3,000-4,000 people per week.
We serve many folks in many areas of the center.
Is there anything you wish more people knew about The Helping Hand Ministry?
I wish more folks knew that they can make a difference in the world by giving as
little as 1 hour of their time per week. They can become the solution!
I wish more folks knew how precious the homeless population is. That they are not “other”. They are our brothers and sisters.
What’s the most important thing you want readers to know about The Helping Hand Ministry?
I would like your readers to know that service is a high spiritual practice and that each of us coming together creates a strong community.
There is no need for loneliness. There is no need for separation. We all come together and we make a positive difference.
Everyone can get involved.
Simple things can help so look at our ideas for a care package to help the city’s most vulnerable.
Would you take $1 from a homeless person? Jean discusses the amazing generousity of the human spirit with Rev. Dr. Mark Vierra & Rev. Marc Laponce of North Hollywood Church of Religious Science.
Jean’s talks with her long time friend Jeff Witten about his work with the amazing organization – World Vision – and all the opportunities they are creating around the globe.