Helping Hands is a ministry within a faith-based organization, the East Friendship Baptist Church, located in Washington D.C. Ward 7. As their mission states, the ministry is wholly about “Having a Willing Heart to Help and A Loving Mind to Serve.” As far as the origin of the story, it all started with leftovers.
The ministry was established in 2011 by Sister Crystal Cook and Brother Michael Warren. During the beginning of that year, they were made aware that a high school student’s mother had lost her job during his senior year. He was receiving a private education that was being paid for out of pocket. Sister Cook and Brother Warren wanted the student to stay focused on his studies, so they discovered a way to help him.
After a men’s prayer breakfast one Saturday, Michael Warren asked if he could get the leftovers to be sold that following Sunday after service. Throughout the rest of the year, he and Sister Cook continued with the idea of selling breakfast after church on Sundays to members and those in the community. By the end of the school year, they were able to pay the student’s tuition for him to graduate so that he could continue his education in college. They raised enough funding that they also made a donation to the church.
That was only the beginning.
On the First Sunday of each month, in between services, Helping Hands comes together and continues to cook a hearty breakfast for the members of the church and people of the community. On the Saturday’s before, they are at the church to prep, so when that Sunday morning comes, they are set and ready to start their ministry work. Members of the ministry are advised to arrive promptly at 8 a.m., allowing them enough time to cook, set up, and assign stations. Once the food is out of the kitchen and at its respective stations, the members come together to collectively bless the food before the congregation partakes in food and fellowship.
With the monetary support from the breakfasts and out-of-pocket contributions, another outreach event Helping Hands host is Back to School Backpack giveaways every year in August. The ministry places an order for a number of custom-made bookbags with their name and mission printed on them, to later fill with plenty of school supplies. Everything from notebooks, binders, folders, pencils, pens, etcetera. The majority of the bags are then distributed to primary and secondary school students who have signed up in advance to receive them. As for the remainder, they are given to those who may just need more. And of course, what is a Back to School Backpack giveaway without a little barbeque for the kids to enjoy—free hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and drinks?
Like Back to School Backpack giveaways, the church continues to support the youth at the church by donating to the Scholarship ministry every year on Scholarship Sunday in June.
Not only does the ministry organize breakfast, backpack giveaways, and provide monetary donations, they support Howard University’s Helping Hands Alternative Spring Break Program. This program allows Howard students to spend their spring break helping out communities in D.C. Sister Crystal feels that “It is important for children of our ministry to witness young adults serve in communities so that they are able to see what next level of serving looks like when serving for other causes.”
That goes to show just how the Helping Hands Ministry realizes and understands the importance of doing good deeds. “We are excited when our congregation takes advantage of our ‘Touched by an Angel’ program, which allows them to be a part of someone else’s healing. Under this program, it’s all about thinking of someone else. They have the opportunity to raise the need of another person or family and thereby, partner with Helping Hands to meet that need. It’s a beautiful thing to bring hope and healing into the lives of others.”