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Surprise donation helps Mt. Juliet Help Center grow while responding to increased need

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Posted at 12:36 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 13:36:09-05

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WTVF) — Sorting, organizing, and stacking. Simple tasks repeated countless times every day at the Mt. Juliet Help Center. And there is also plenty of number crunching. With just two staff members and 15 weekly volunteers, there is always something to do.

“We give out a huge amount of food and we are client choice, so families get to choose the food they want. We provide them milk, eggs, pastries, meat, and produce, as well as canned items,” said Carolyn Smith, director of the Mt. Juliet Help Center.

But she admits the pandemic has been tough.

“We had to close our building to foot traffic, but we were determined to serve the community, so we never closed throughout the pandemic. We just found ways to adapt," Smith said.

More than 140,000 pounds of food flowed out of the building in both 2020 and 2021. Now more than ever, people are struggling to pay sky-high utility bills.

“In January and February of this year already we've paid out over $12,000 in emergency utility assistance. In comparison for 2021 our total was just over $43,000, says Assistant Director Kelly McCurry.

It all equals a big task. And while this small but mighty group is up for the challenge, the small building is not.

“We built this permanent building in 2014 and almost immediately we knew we were going to need more space, and since that time we've been saving with that in mind,” said Smith.

“We are supported by a lot of churches, civic organizations, schools and individual donations,” explains McCurry.

That support keeps the programs running, but a surprise donation from Providence United Methodist Church — part of its Christmas Eve offering — means the Help Center's expansion is likely paid for.

“It was $217,000," said Smith. “We were completely blown away by the generosity of that church and we're so happy that the community believes in what we do. We're going to be able to continue serving and hopefully add more services as the years go by.”

The Mt. Juliet Help Center is dedicated to helping residents of West Wilson County with food and utility assistance.