Barbara Huffman remembers what it's like to go hungry. When she was a single mother trying to make ends meet, she sometimes skipped meals just to make sure her children were fed. She also remembers that there were places where she could go for help but her pride got in the way.
Years have passed and times have gotten much better for Huffman. In fact, in addition to the degree she holds in parent education, she became an ordained minister. After years of providing pastoral care, she felt the time was right to start a ministry of her own: One that would meet the needs of people who are in the same position she once found herself.
In May, her nonprofit organization Huffman House will celebrate its second anniversary of providing grass-roots social services to people of all faiths -- or no faith at all -- in Gwinnett County. Volunteers include people of all persuasions, including agnostics and atheists. The only thing each one must believe in is the importance of cheerfulness. In fact, just like Mother Teresa's nuns, volunteers must actually take a vow of cheerfulness.
"If people can't be cheerful we don't need them here," Huffman said.
Remembering her pride in her hungry years, Huffman makes the request process for clients as easy as possible. There is minimal paperwork and no government involvement. If necessary, Huffman House will deliver food to the door. They also customize orders as best they can by allowing each caller five requests. And they provide only healthy foods like 100 percent juice drinks.
Support comes entirely from personal, church and business donations. Active supporters include Sugarloaf United Methodist Church in Duluth, Rising Church in Suwanee and Atlanta Unity Church in Norcross. In March, the Hunger to Hope: Feed My Hungry Children event at the Gwinnett Fairgrounds brought in 2,514 pounds of food.
One of their newest supporters is Clipping for a Cause.
"They know how to get things for free and they can quadruple the value of a dollar by using coupons," Huffman said.
Huffman's ministry is growing, but so are people's needs. According to a recent news story, the poverty rate in America is the highest it's been since the 1960s and even if you live in a luxury subdivision, this could include the family next door. In fact, Huffman House proclaims on its website "because our neighbors are hungry."
In order to keep up with the growing ministry, Huffman said, "We are looking for someone to donate a commercially zoned home, a large storefront property or a small warehouse with office and training space. It needs to be in Gwinnett County, preferably in or around our county seat, Lawrenceville. A public presence in the community is needed for our growth into providing much-needed services."
Much needed services she vows will be cheerfully provided.
For more information visit huffmanhouse.com
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.