HeartLand Hands Inc. Food Pantry was about to close for good in January.
The old Walmart building at 385 Stateline Road in Southaven, which housed the operation of its grocery pantry rent free, was sold in January and the new owners wanted to leave it by March.
With no money to buy a new building, the nonprofit was faced with three very unattractive scenarios. You could liquidate. You could transfer the operations to another HeartLand Church service. Or they could close their doors and walk away after a 15 year run.
Pastor Mike Higgins knew that God would not just close their doors and leave thousands of families in northern Mississippi without food aid. So he and the volunteers left it up to the Lord to find a way to keep them going because they ran out of time.
“We were on the verge of a shutdown. It really was us, ”said Higgins. “We had received an eviction notice. We didn’t have any money to fall back on. And there was nowhere to go. “
HeartLand Hands is one of the largest pantries in DeSoto County. The non-profit organization offers canned food, cleaning products and hygiene products to the poor, children, seniors, the homeless and the unemployed. HeartLand Hands, which is staffed entirely by volunteers, provided $ 11.6 million in grocery donations to families and other pantries in northern Mississippi last year.
HeartLand Hands received the lifeline it needed thanks to a $ 750,000 Challenge Grant from the Maddox Foundation. The Maddox Foundation is a nonprofit foundation founded in 1968 by the late Dan Maddox that donates money to hundreds of nonprofits across northwest Mississippi to help them make impact and work to improve the quality of life for families, children , and communities they serve.
Connie James, director of HeartLand Hands, said she found out about the Maddox Foundation through a phone call from Billy Myers, who serves on the board of directors for the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. Myers came to visit and learned of the predicament they were facing and arranged to meet with Maddox Foundation President Robin Hurdle.
Hurdle visited HeartLand Hands and saw the good work they are doing in the community and offered to help the foundation.
“Billy called me and said you need to see this,” Hurdle said. “He said they had a setback and could close their doors in two weeks. I showed up and Connie had a heartfelt story. She was in tears when she talked to me about the people they see and how many people they serve and how much they need it. “
Hurdle offered $ 750,000 to buy a building.
James said she looked like a deer trapped in the headlights when she heard the news.
“When Robin did the first match, I just thought, how are we going to do it?” Said James. “At our staff meeting, we went to our volunteers and said we had $ 750,000 on the table. I don’t know how to do it. “
That was on a Tuesday. On Thursday, a 17-year-old volunteer who had worked for her for several years came to visit James and handed over a rolled-up $ 100 bill he had saved for Christmas to help raise the $ 750,000.
“I said, ‘Oh my god.’ What should I do? “Said James.” I can’t fail him. “
Within two weeks, volunteers had raised about $ 8,000. Bruce and Suzanne Prewett, as well as Cal and Linda Wilkins, also provided generous donations, but they were still a long way from raising the appropriate $ 750,000.
James said it was the Homer Skelton Charitable Foundation that stepped in and offered to fund the entire $ 750,000.
“We had a chance to tell them our story,” said James. “They said let’s see what we can do. I was thinking of $ 10,000 or something. But they called back and said they would top up the $ 750,000. “
The money raised enabled HeartLand Hands to purchase the 27,500-square-foot former Salvation Army building in 1621 Goodman Road, the rest will be donated as a foundation to help out the nonprofit on a rainy day.
Hurdle said the Challenge Grant to HeartLand Hands is a perfect example of how the Maddox Foundation is fulfilling its mission in the community.
“We’re really excited to hear that you’ve raised the game,” said Hurdle as he presented the check. “That’s great. If you have an emergency now, this fund can be drawn from the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. “
The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi was established in 2002 and administers over 300 donor funds for the Maddox Foundation. The nonprofit has distributed more than $ 25 million to support charities in Bolivar, Coahoma, DeSoto, Leflore, Marshall, Panola, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, and Tunica counties.
Higgins said the Maddox Foundation was a lifesaver.
“We only told people that if you think we were valuable, invest in us,” said Higgins. “Thanks to you and all the supporters we have had, we have been able to move into a home forever, from which we don’t have to worry, from which we will be evicted. And thanks to that, we have a foundation that ensures that we can pay our bills. “
Higgins added that the Maddox Foundation grant enables HeartLand Hands to fulfill its three-fold mission: “To give you help, to give you hope and to encourage you”.
“And we can only do that through donations from the local community and people like the Maddox Foundation,” said Higgins. “We’re just thrilled to be a part of it, to even be considered worthy of receiving it. The Bible says it is our responsibility to feed the hungry. And we at HeartLand Hands will continue to do so with your generous support. So far we haven’t needed any help. But when we needed help most, you came at the best time we needed it. We have a secure future. “
James thanked the Maddox Foundation and the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, adding that their help and that of the other donors was more than they could ever have imagined.
“We are very grateful for the money,” said James. “We have a great team and they are doing a great job. Thank you for recognizing us and what these volunteers need for their work. The people who receive the services would be desperate without them. It’s a great blessing. “