A mother of three had just gotten out of an abusive relationship and was left with nothing but a diaper bag.
She was overwhelmed with everything that had been going on in her life.
Heading to Cornerstone Community Church in Seymour, however, she found what she needed for her and her children and gained a friend in the process.
At the church’s annual fall giveaway, the woman was greeted by a volunteer, who walked around with her and helped select items she needed.
The volunteer also listened to the woman’s story, and they have remained friends ever since.
“They talk all of the time,” said Rebecca Ruiz, who is in her second year of organizing the fall giveaway. “She watches her kids. She’s got a job. She’s in a healthy place in her life. She brings her kids to church from time to time.”
The woman came to the church broken, but the volunteer’s act of kindness turned her life in a positive direction.
“It’s really taking the time to get to know some of the people in our community and make a connection and know that they are not alone, that they are thought of and they are cared about,” Ruiz said.
“A lot of them that come in, they’ve had a hard life, and when you don’t have anything and you struggle, you just feel like, ‘Why am I here? Why am I doing this? It’s never going to change,’” she said. “They come in and see a smiling face and ‘Hey, can I help you? What do you need? Let me help you get it.’ You just kind of make a connection that lets you know you’re not alone.”
Cornerstone started a fall giveaway in 2004. Then-Pastor Crawford Huff and his wife, Patti, were new to the city and wanted to do something similar to what they had done at their previous church in Owensboro, Kentucky.
Since then, church members and others in the community have had the opportunity to donate items to give away at the event.
This year’s giveaway is set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 16 at the church, 1088 Sarasota Drive.
Donations are being accepted from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the church.
Items accepted include clothing, shoes, furniture, toys, books, electronics and home goods.
“The only thing that we really ask is that whatever you bring in is clean, that it’s not ripped or with tears, holes, stains, that kind of thing,” Ruiz said. “When we give to people in the community, we want to give them nice things. We just want to give back to the community and love on them and help them out wherever they need.”
The church also is accepting donations of new socks, underwear and diapers to be given to children.
Free services that day will include automotive checks, car seat checks, Medicaid information and a small meal. Rose Acre Farms also had donated 120 dozen eggs to be given away on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Ruiz said she hopes to find someone to donate their time to do free haircuts for all ages, and a local Lions Club may do vision screenings. She also is reaching out to past donors to contribute items or services for the event.
“My goal would be to just really get the community involved and active in it and really help make our community better,” she said.
Volunteers will be needed to help sort items from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 12 to 15 at the church, and more than 100 people typically show up the day of the giveaway to help wherever they can.
“We welcome anybody that wants to come in and volunteer,” Ruiz said. “It’s good to know that there’s still good out there and that people are willing to give back. To me, it’s a nice investment to see that people are willing to invest in this community. … It’s nice to know that people are still fighting and they are still willing to work to make it better.”
Each year on the day of the event, Ruiz said people are lined up outside before the doors open, and the volunteers are ready and willing to help them.
“It’s the best feeling in the world when you see these people come in and what they get out of it,” Ruiz said. “We just pray that whoever is in need will come and they will get what they need.”
Any leftover items will be donated to the Jackson County Clothing Center and Todd’s Place, both in Seymour.
“That way, anything that actually comes in literally goes right back out into the community for free,” Ruiz said. “It’s nice that it goes back out into the community helping people.”