HUDSON — An organization that has been around for 70-plus years is available to provide multiple forms of assistance to residents in need both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We serve people in need in Hudson," said Jennifer McKinley, who chairs Helping Hands, one of the three major initiatives offered by Hudson Community Service Association (HCSA).

McKinley said 100% of the money donated to HCSA, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, goes "back into the community," and helps residents who live in the Hudson School District.

Due to COVID-19, McKinley said Helping Hands has recently received more calls and heard from people "who’ve never reached out before."

"We’re here through this pandemic," added McKinley. "We’ll be here after the pandemic … our mission is to serve."

HCSA was incorporated in 1944 with the goal of assisting the city’s returning U.S. Armed Forces veterans and their families. The founders of HCSA contacted non-profit organizations in town and invited them "to join together in a forum that would enhance their ability to identify community needs and develop strategies to meet those needs," stated HCSA’s website.

In addition to Helping Hands, the other two components of HCSA are: Food Pantry and Community Interest.

Food Pantry distributes food once a month

McKinley said the Food Pantry is a "choice pantry," meaning that people who use its services can make selections from a menu and the offerings include fresh fruits and vegetables, according to McKinley. The pantry also provides non-food items such as toilet paper, shampoo, paper towels and laundry detergent. The pantry does not provide milk, eggs, meat or any other items that need to be refrigerated. Recipients are given a grocery store gift card which could be used for those types items or anything else they need.

McKinley said her organization likes to grant people "the dignity to pick out what they want."

"People are people no matter what situation they’re in," added McKinley.

McKinley said food distribution takes place on the fourth Saturday of each month at Rejoice Lutheran Church, 7855 Stow Road. She said there were 115 people who received food this past Saturday. That number included 47 children and 16 senior citizens.

New visitors to the Food Pantry must present a valid photo ID; proof they live in the Hudson City School District and fall within the federal income eligibility requirements, which have been revised due to COVID-19. McKinley emphasized that a recipient can qualify under a weekly, monthly or annual income guideline.

Due to COVID-19, the pantry is not currently accepting food donations.

If people need food assistance, even if they don’t think they qualify, McKinley said they should call Helping Hands at 330-671-9457. Helping Hands can also provide contact information for other food sources in the area.

Helping Hands

Helping Hands provides money to assist people who live within the Hudson City School District with payment of rent and utility bills, as well as acquisition of clothing and vehicle fuel. McKinley explained that Helping Hands works directly with a landlord or utility company to provide payments on behalf of the clients.

If people have longer term needs or need help with services not provided by Helping Hands, McKinley said the group’s volunteers will refer them to other organizations and government programs.

She emphasized that the names of people who are seeking help with either the Food Pantry or Helping Hands will remain anonymous.

"We are 100 percent confidential on our clients’ identities," said McKinley.

Community Interest

HCSA’s Community Interest sector supports the Holiday Lighting of the Green and provides funding to the Hudson Senior Citizens social and support group.

Membership is open to anyone aged 55 and older. If only one spouse is 55, both are eligible for membership. The group typically has regular meetings and events.

More phone calls, more new clients

McKinley added Helping Hands is "prepared to handle" the added requests for assistance that are coming in due to COVID-19.

"We’re here to serve," said McKinley. "We’re going to do the best we can to help people."

To reach Helping Hands, call 330-671-9457 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Volunteers are staffing the phone line during that time frame. A message can be left on weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Monetary donations can be mailed to the Hudson Community Service Association, P.O. Box 1472, Hudson, OH 44236.

McKinley said there are separate accounts for the Food Pantry, Helping Hands and Community Interest. Donors should specify which of these three causes will receive the donation by writing it on the memo line of the check.

For more information about HCSA, visit www.hudsoncommunityservice.org.

Signs posted around town

Signs promoting contact information for both Helping Hands and Hudson OH Helps have appeared all across town. Hudson Community Foundation, The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Peg’s Foundation, the city of Hudson and a number of volunteers donated and granted funds supporting this effort. Locally-owned Splott Graphics made the signs at a discounted price.

One side of the sign promotes HCSA’s Helping Hands and Food Pantry, while the other side of the sign lists Hudson OH Helps, a group of residents who got together to offer help to residents in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hudson Oh Helps can be reached at 330-362-2524 or by visiting www.hudsonohhelps.org.

Gina Dotson, the grants and communications manager for the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, said her organization has supported HCSA with approximately $86,000 in grants since 2007. The money is primarily used to assist families in need through the Helping Hands program.

Amy Jordan, president of the Hudson Community Foundation, said her group is using its Hudson NOW Fund to HCSA and added that a portion of the fund’s first monetary distribution went to "fund the Hudson Food Pantry’s April distribution."

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.