The call came in early on a Wednesday morning before the doors of Good Samaritan Ministries had opened. It was a young lady whose family needed help with groceries.
She, her husband and their four children had recently moved to Brownwood and her husband had yet to find a job. They had been denied emergency food stamps. Someone told her we might be able to help.
She said they had never had to ask for help before in their lives. It would only be this once. She was sure her husband would find work soon. She was embarrassed.
After assuring her that was what GSM was here for, she said she would send her husband down when he was done with a job interview.
A little later, a young man came in. While waiting for his groceries, a staff member shared with him some ideas of places he may try to find a job in his field. Another staff member asked if the couple had Christmas gifts for their children. He said that they had.
Armed with groceries and a contact list, the young man left with tears in his eyes.
Maybe he was embarrassed.
But, then again, maybe he was overwhelmed at the kindness of strangers who were there to not only provide for a physical need but to share hope, encouragement and love.
"That's always our number one goal," said Angelia Bostick, Executive Director of GSM. "We want to meet people where they are and to show them the love of Jesus by not only ministering to their physical needs but their emotional and spiritual needs as well."
Just because someone finds themselves in a place to need help from an organization such as GSM doesn't mean they suddenly stop being worthwhile individuals, Bostick said.
"One of the most important things we give to people is not food or financial assistance, but dignity," she said. "Most people are usually so beat down and humiliated by the time they come here, embarrassed to be asking for help, that the very least we can do is love them and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve and so desperately need."
This Christmas season has brought in many stories like the young man above: grateful hearts and met needs. But it has also brought answered prayers and met needs to the ministry itself.
On the same Wednesday, the VCR in the lobby quit working. As parents come in, it helps to occupy the children by playing a movie. With Wednesday typically being the busiest day of the week, the receptionist was worried about how disappointed the children would be, but before the front doors opened a brand new television and VCR was donated in the back. The timing was perfect.
Sometimes it's the little things that mean so much.
Throughout the month of December, GSM has seen 1,346 families.
"It's not as much as we expected, but it's still a record number for us," Bostick said. "We believe that the people who truly needed help this month received it. And we'll open back up on Jan. 2 to do it all again."
This year has repeatedly set records. During 2011, GSM has:
• Provided food staples to 11,982 families, 680 of those had never been to GSM before.
• Given out 1,235,386 pounds of food.
• Provided 3,300 sacks of food to chronically hungry students through the Food for Thought program.
• Had more than 300 volunteers who worked more than 10,000 hours.
"The economy is the worst it's been in a long time and donations are lower than they have been in 6 years," Bostick said. "But even at that, GSM has provided for record numbers of families through our food pantry, clothing store and financial assistance programs. There's no way we could have done what we have without the support of the Brown County community that has been so thoughtful, kind and faithful to remember those who have fallen on hard times."
The GSM offices, food pantry and clothing store will be closed until the first of the year. They will reopen at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 2. Monetary donations may still be made online at goodsambwd.org or mailed to P.O. Box 1136, Brownwood, TX 76804. However, there will be no one available to take clothing donations. Program supporters are asked to hold onto donations of clothing and household goods until the offices open again in January.
Misty Bowers is director of communications for Good Samaritan Ministries.