By Meghan Keely
Standing in a small building, adoring the organized bins full of donations and contributions for those in need, Penny King offers a smile and a chair, eager to passionately talk about the Stepping Stones for Families, a program of the Lifeway Nazarene Mission.
The Stepping Stones for Families program helps those in the surrounding area who are in need of tangible items. The first Saturday of every month the small building at 94 Columbia Ave., Greenville, opens its doors to the public for a donation giveaway.
“I first heard of the stepping stones program through the Kinsman, Ohio, Chapel of the Christian and Mission Alliance,” King said. “It was such an amazing thing I witnessed there. People donated so much and the people that were in need were beyond thankful. After I visited the program, I realized that the people of Greenville and the local area could really use the help.”
King, 56, a resident of Greenville, talked with members of the church board at the Lifeway Nazarene Church and they agreed with King, deciding the area needed such a program. The church granted King the permission to use a building it owns as the distribution center for the donations. With the help of her family and other volunteers, the Stepping Stones program has been helping the community for 16 months.
King said anyone can attend the giveaway and reiterated that it is free to the public.
“We have all kinds of donations that are available to help area residents,” King said. “We have clothes, household items, furniture, toys, books, shoes, coats, games, movies, electronics, nonperishable foods and much more.”
King said the fewest number of people at any giveaway was 51 and the most, 157.
“We have had more new people in the last few months. The word of the program is getting spread throughout the Greenville area,” King said. “We have a variety of people that come through and I honestly believe it’s because everybody needs help. At some point or another we all need help.”
King, her sister Linda, her mother, other members of her family and some volunteers help her with the donation drive and organization of the donations each month.
“We basically have Friday to set up for the giveaway because the church uses the building on Thursday. A lot of times we will sort and organize donations at my home,” King said. “We do have other local volunteers that help with sorting and cleaning up after.”
King sat at a table in the small church building, glancing over all the bags of donations and totes she had yet to sort. In a trance she stared, interrupted by the creaking of the front door opening.
With a smile she looked over and said, “These are volunteers from the Kinsman program because my sister who normally helps is in the hospital sick. This is why the Stepping Stones program is great. These volunteers came here to help me set up, knowing they were not only helping me but those in need.”
The volunteers brought in toy after toy, and bag after bag of donations that together they would soon sort into the numerous bins that sat out on a dozen tables through out the building.
“Normally on Friday we will set up all day,” King said. “Then we will come back at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday to start again and we will be here until we clean up once the giveaway is over at noon.”
One of the Kinsman volunteers, Shelly Mines, 51, said she got involved with volunteering after taking one of her friends to the giveaway.
“My friend decided to go to the giveaway in Kinsman because she was low income and needed the help,” Mines said. “Once I took her there and saw how great the program was, I decided to help and volunteer. All of the volunteers are wonderful and all the people involved are such amazing people. That is why we are here helping Penny. She is a great team leader for the Greenville Stepping Stones and deserved the help.”
King said she tries to provide extra help during the holidays by offering donated gifts and food to those who attend the giveaway. For Easter they made baskets for the children and for this past Christmas a lady donated a lot of gifts for the families.
“We used to provide a light lunch for anybody who came, but because of finances we have had to stop,” King said. “I am going to try and get it going again and I am hoping we can find donations. My family was paying for it out of pocket. We had one boy eat six hot dogs the one day. When we had to stop serving the lunch one little girl asked us why there was no more food. It was a sad thing to know that these kids were looking forward to this food.”
King mentioned one of her main goals is to make the public aware of the program and let people know there is a place they can get help through donations.
“My 81-year-old mother and I have gone door to door giving out fliers, trying to spread the word,” King said. “This is a program that we need here. There is a lack of employment in this area and people are in hard times.”
The giveaway is held from 9 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of every month at 94 Columbia Ave., Greenville.
For more information on the giveaway or to donate, contact Penny King at 724-877-1801 or visit Stepping Stones on Facebook.