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To help Helping Hands

Volunteers and trucks are needed to assist with St. Mary’s Helping Hands’ move to the old Immaculate Conception Catholic Church hall on Old Village Road in Mechanicsville. The move is expected to take place in early June. In addition, financial donations to assist with necessary repairs would be welcome. To contact Helping Hands, call 301-373-6990 during the food pantry’s regular hours, which are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Rose Slade believes that God responds to prayer.

She visited the most recent evidence of her belief last week. Slade parked her vehicle just off Old Village Road in Mechanicsville and got out to take another look at the old Immaculate Conception Catholic Church hall, set next to the road, just down a hill from the church.

“I think it’s going to be a perfect fit for us here,” Slade said.

Slade didn’t stop smiling as she talked about how the building suits the needs of St. Mary’s Helping Hands — the food pantry and assistance nonprofit that has operated out of an old home in Hollywood since 1999. In late March, she announced that the charity had to leave the Hollywood site. The building had deteriorated and was too far gone to save.

“It’s, unfortunately, just falling apart,” said longtime volunteer George Halvosa of Hollywood after hearing the news back in March.

So Slade, who has headed up Helping Hands since it was established in 1991, began looking for a new home for the charity. She contacted people in the community about the need and began saying prayers and lighting candles.

But location after location that came to Slade’s notice didn’t work out.

At that time, Slade said they were looking for a place at least as large as the Hollywood site, but larger would be better. Due to the heavy loads that need to be carried in and out, the new location needed to be on the first floor of a building. It needed to be handicapped accessible and have parking and a bathroom for volunteers. It needed to have heat that works.

In addition, Slade hoped to find a place that would continue the same deal the charity had enjoyed at the Hollywood site — no rent, with Helping Hands only having to pay for utilities and insurance. With so little overhead, the charity can devote its resources to assisting its clients.

After the Rev. Michael Tietjen, pastor of Immaculate Conception, contacted Slade with the idea that Helping Hands could move into the church’s old hall, all of those needs seem to be met.

“We could take the building in Hollywood and set it inside this one,” Slade said, pointing out the extra space the hall provides.

She noted that the windows and doors on the hall need to be replaced. “But, you see, the ramp is in good shape,” she said, as she walked up that ramp to the hall’s front doors. “I think the clients will enjoy coming here. Look ... plenty of parking.”

And the church will not charge rent.

Slade had hoped to keep Helping Hands centrally located in St. Mary’s County, and she started her search for new locations with the plan to stay in the Hollywood area. But she is quickly warming to the idea of moving to the northern end of the county.

She said when she talked to volunteers about the new location, they were all willing to make the drive in order to keep the charity running. And when she told the charity’s clients about the move, they were also OK with the change.

“They’re just grateful we’re not closing,” Slade said. “Our prayers have been answered.”

Tietjen said Wednesday morning that Helping Hands is also a good fit for Immaculate Conception.

The old hall, which is believed to have been constructed in 1931, used to be used for Catholic education, Christian concerts, indoor yard sales and Boy Scout troop meetings. However, the church constructed a new hall, located behind the church in 2007, and the old hall was used less and less.

“As of the past year or so, it’s basically been lying dormant,” he said. But “it’s historic. The parishioners want to keep it.”

In addition, the church already has at least a decade-long association with Helping Hands, providing regular donations to the food pantry. Levi Parker, a member of the church who serves as the informal liaison between Helping Hands and Immaculate Conception, was the first to mention the idea of offering the old hall, Tietjen said. It was an idea that had crossed Tietjen’s mind also.

“Everything I’ve heard from parishioners, they’ve been excited about it,” the priest said

Tietjen anticipates that Helping Hands moving to the old hall will cause no conflict with the church’s regular activities, he said. Helping Hands is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Nothing’s going on here,” Tietjen said, during those times. “It dovetails perfectly with our schedule.”

And beyond all the logistics, Tietjen said it is exciting that the church will play a bigger part in helping people in the area.

“The need is so great,” Slade said. “It’s all ages. The county is booming, but the have-nots are always going to be with us, and we have to do anything we can to help.”

Slade hopes Helping Hands will not miss a day of service as it changes locations. She plans to move the charity from Hollywood to Mechanicsville during a weekend in early June. She is looking for volunteers and people with trucks to help with the move. Financial donations to assist with the move and immediately needed building repairs would be welcome.