"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." ("Shawshank Redemption")

BRENTWOOD -- A little more than a year ago, hope sprang in Brentwood.

Nearly 400 families and 1,000 people now get help, thanks to a ministry group, led in part by Jeff Schults, from Brentwood Community United Methodist Church.

The focus of HOPE House (Hope, Opportunity, Prayer and Encouragement) is to offer food and clothing to those in need in the area.

Shults estimates the group has distriubted more than 1,000 coats, along with countless pants and shirts.

As with so many who give, Schults and company are getting something back. "This is a true blessing for everyone involved. This ministry has changed lives and provided hope to our community."

He said the response has been "awesome," which fortifies the group's resolve to help.

One thing Schults has come away with is a new viewpoint.

"The face of the poor is different than I expected. Our clients are so diverse, (including) low-income, English-as-a-second language farm workers, elderly on fixed income, working poor and multiple families in the same house, medical issues, domestic issues, substance abuse and on and on."

Schults and company understand what they offer in the way of food and clothing is "temporary and limited. But, what we do is provide hope to people who feel alone and lost, hurt and looking for answers. We can pray with and for them and give them a place to turn when they feel there is nowhere to go."

Robin Vaughan has volunteered for HOPE House since it opened, and is filled with special tales.

One is of an unemployed woman looking for an outfit from the "Clothes Closet" for an interview. Vaughn was able to help her put together an ensemble and shoes.

Vaughn later saw the woman at her new job. "She came up and gave me a big hug and said 'thank you so much' and 'how do I look? This is one of the outfits you helped me with.'

"We both shared a tear," Vaughn said "The thing that is important here is you may have no food, job or home, but people have dignity. It's so important to make them feel good about themselves. It's very difficult for some to ask for help ...We (make) everyone feel welcomed."

As a ministry of this Methodist church, HOPE House garners its funding from a partnership with St. Vincent de Paul, the county Food Bank and Feeding America. It also receives food donations from Fresh & Easy and the Brentwood Regional Community Chest.

To further help, the church is leading a Hunger Crop Walk (along with 10 other Bay Area sites) on April 20 to help raise money for hunger around the world. Of those funds raised, 25 percent will be divided between HOPE House and the Far East County food pantry.

If you want to help, tax-deductable donations are welcome. Send your check payable to BCUMC to 809 Second St., Brentwood, CA 94513. In the check's memo field include HOPE House.

For more information, visit www.brentwoodumc.org/bcumc/home

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net

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