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073119 helping hands

Diana Walker sorts through baby clothes on a rack at Helping Hands in one of the classrooms at the Old Willow School in Norway. The baby clothes and other items are available to whomever wants them the first Saturday of every month from 8 to 10 a.m. This Saturday, Aug. 3, marks the first time at this location.

NORWAY – Helping Hands has moved to two donated classrooms in the eastern end of the Old Willow School at 2750 Cope Road, Norway, and will have a reopening Saturday, Aug. 3, from 8 to 10 a.m. to make their donated clothing and other items publicly available, including special University of South Carolina items.

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“Family members of (the late) Mrs. Betty Smith donated some of her clothing, including USC items, to Helping Hands,” said Diana Walker, current director of Helping Hands. “Mrs. Betty Smith became involved with the organization 15 years ago. She was the final director when it closed.”

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The USC items include a purse with the university logo and handkerchiefs with Gamecocks on them. Walker said that Smith was an avid USC fan.

Walker also said that Smith coincidentally used one of the classrooms being used by Helping Hands, the current women’s clothing room, when she was a teacher.

Helping Hands will continue to open every first Saturday of every month at the same time for people who want their wares, and it has truly been a community effort. The classrooms were donated by the town of Norway for Helping Hands to store their items for the public, the community has donated the items and more than 13 regional churches have provided volunteers and donations, including funds, to the organization.

Helping Hands currently has more than 500 pieces of gently used children’s, baby, women’s and men’s clothing for whomever wants the items. They also have mostly over 110 pairs of gently used women’s shoes and a few bed and bath linens of comparable condition. The clothing items for adults so far have ranged from petite to large with a few plus-sized items. Helping Hands also recently acquired a fairly large donation of men’s sport coats.

“There is no income qualification necessary to get the items. It is like a thrift store, but you don’t have to pay,” Walker said

“It’s not just for the needy. It’s for everybody.”

Helping Hands does accept donations of the aforementioned types of gently used items as well as monetary donations.

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“The community has done all of this. They brought all the clothing” and other items, she said.

The only thing that was not initially available was funds to put the power back on in the two rooms.

“We had a fish fry fundraiser for $3,000. It paid for the installation of electricity for two rooms and was a success,” Walker said.

Walker said that in 1992, the churches around Norway established Helping Hands Outreach Ministry, a clothing ministry and soup kitchen (which has been abbreviated to Helping Hands by many). She added that her mother, Carolyn Walker, was one of its founders.

“I started helping with Helping Hands 20 years ago when my children got old enough,” she said. “The soup kitchen no longer exists. The clothing ministry closed in March after the death of Mrs. Smith, a longtime worker, and, in recent years, the director.”

The clothing ministry reopens this Saturday after about five months.

There are steps on the right, or western, end of the Old Willow School which are close to the two classrooms -- one on the left and one on the right -- where the donated items are located. There is a ramp on the left, or eastern, end for the disabled who can then go down or be escorted by their caregivers down the hallway to the classrooms.

Volunteers and financial donations are always welcome. For more information, those who are interested in volunteering or making a financial donation are asked to come to one of the open Saturdays. Everything is on a volunteer basis, so there is no staff phone number or email address publicly available.

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Gently used clothing, shoes, and bath and bed linens in closed bags or sealed boxes may be dropped off any time at the right steps on the western end of the school.

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Contact the writer: rbaxley37@gmail.com.

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