On June 16, a semi-truck in Epworth was loaded by volunteers with household goods and clothes on their way to Williamsburg, Ky.
For the past five years, Jane and Tom Bechen and a group of volunteers have worked hard to transport needed goods to the Friendship Center in Kentucky.
The town was once a booming coal mining area but lost business when the mines shut down. The area was left with many people unemployed and in extreme poverty.
In 1970, the Sisters of Saint Francis started the Friendship Center, a non-profit thrift store and community outreach program in the area to help the local community. They also provided a food pantry that receives donations from local grocery stores.
Jane and Tom Bechen learned about the Friendship Center through Deacon Jerry Koopman. Koopman knew the sisters who started the Friendship Center and realized their large need for donations.
The first year the Bechens gathered donations for the Friendship Center, they drove to Williamsburg themselves to drop off the items. This allowed them to see the need first hand.
“Resources Unite helped us with transportation for two years, and last year Simon’s Trucking from Farley generously volunteered to haul the load down in a semi and to furnish a driver,” Jane said, “This has been a God-send as raising money for transportation was always the biggest challenge.”
Each year the Friendship Center provides them with a list of most-needed items. This year that list included a large need for steel-toed boots. There is a local factory in Williamsburg that hires those who need jobs, but if they do not have steel-toed boots they can not work there.
“It always amazes me that we can fill a classroom with items that are our excess, and to the families in Kentucky, it is their livelihood,” Bechen explained.
This year, the Friendship Center saw a large need for products due to COVID-19 worsening the poverty in Williamsburg.
Luckily, they were still able to receive many donations. “This year we are thrilled to report that over $3,000 was raised to purchase new items, including twin mattresses, steel toe shoes, men’s work boots and jeans, plus household items,” said Jane.
If you would like to donate, please save your furniture, clothes, and appliances until next spring when the Faith Formation Building in Epworth has a two-week collection. Cash donations are also welcome and checks can be sent to the St. Elizabeth Pastorate Office. Please mark them for the Stuff the Semi collection.