Unsung Heroes
Helping Hands
by Laura Haley
contributing writer
Sep 20, 2012 | 773 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Donna Hofman (left) talks to Mary Ann Wiler (right) while serving food at the Helping Hands dinner at the First Baptist Church. Photo by Laura Haley
Donna Hofman (left) talks to Mary Ann Wiler (right) while serving food at the Helping Hands dinner at the First Baptist Church. Photo by Laura Haley
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Every Sunday afternoon, people line up outside the doors of the First Baptist Church at 420 Mi Vida Drive. The people in line aren’t typical parishioners. Instead, they’re largely members of the community who are struggling to get by. Many are homeless, others are passing through, and all are there for a free meal.

Members of the First Baptist Church, along with help from neighboring Community Church of Moab and other members of the community, offer a program called Helping Hands Ministry. They provide dinner every Sunday evening to anyone in the area who needs a hot meal.

According to Debbie Rappe, one of the women who is responsible for making sure the dinner happens every week, the youth minister from First Baptist Church originally suggested the idea after speaking with someone from the homeless committee. They have been opening their doors for nearly two years, not only providing something to eat, but also providing facilities for attendees to take showers, giving away clothes that are donated by members of the church, and, when needed, a sympathetic ear.

“It’s changed so many people’s lives for the better,” Rappe said. “This is what we need to be doing. This is what it’s all about.”

Mary Ann Wiler is another volunteer who goes out of her way to help make the dinner a continual success. While serving hamburgers, hot dogs and chips to the approximately 25 people who show up every week, Wiler jokes with them, trying to make them feel welcome.

According to Lenore Beeson, a Moab resident who recently joined the local Salvation Army board, helping the homeless residents to feel like real people is a very important part of the weekly meal.

“This gives them a sense of community,” Beeson said. “It helps them know what it’s like to be treated like humans.”

Many of the people who attend the weekly dinner live or camp in makeshift homes on the Mill Creek Parkway. Beeson said that for many of them, the Helping Hands dinner might be the only real meal they have all week.

Mary Ann said that the group has seen an influx of new faces in the recent weeks. “It’s really exciting to see them taking advantage of this,” Beeson said.

Wiler said that it is important for everyone to reach out and talk to the people who show up for the food.

“We like to have them in so that we can make contact,” she said.

While the First Baptist Church hosts the meal every Sunday, other churches and families within the community donate time and food toward the weekly dinner. Rappe said that, while the program started as a homeless ministry, it has really grown to encompass so much more.

“I think we get more blessed from it than they do,” she said. “We’re hoping to give them hope.”

Sarah Melnicoff, a local advocate for the homeless, also takes an active role in the weekly dinner.

“These people are so amazing,” Melnicoff said

“This really is an amazing organization,” Beeson said. “They walk the walk.”

Beeson said that among all the communities she has called home throughout her life, said she has never witnessed people providing as much direct help to others as she has seen from members of the Moab community.

“Our community continuously rises to the occasion,” Beeson said.

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