Pandemic relief

House of Care provides resources for people in need

Monica Murray Lightfoot gets help from assistant Corey Reed (right) to keep a clothes panty outfitted.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Monica Murray Lightfoot started House of Care to help others.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

When Monica Murray Lightfoot showed up at her storefront church and found a family sitting outside, she wasn’t too surprised.

The word had gotten around that her little church was doing big things to help families in need. So when she walked up to the family of three adults and two children, it wasn’t surprising that she listened to their plight.

“They needed food,” Lightfoot said. “They needed clothes. They needed somewhere to live.”

Using every resource agency she could, Lightfoot was able to fulfill the family’s needs.

If she were keeping numbers on the amount of people she’s helped since starting her mission seven years ago the family would have been well over 1,000. Lightfoot started House of Care out of a willingness to help others.

The idea came to her after seeing people living without basic essentials in the small Gadsden County community where she lived. She started the mission, using a bedroom in her home as a storage area for goods she’d collected to give away. 

Lightfoot got to that point after she’d seen enough people hurting in her community.

“I would just cry, cry, cry when I see them,” she said. “It finally dawned on me that there is something I have to do about it.”

The House of Care concept has grown to the point that it is now located in a strip mall off Crawfordville Highway near the intersection of Capital Circle. Apart from Sunday services, traffic is busy inside.

It’s where Lightfoot and a corps of volunteers hosted Thanksgiving dinners. People also showed up to be outfitted for job interviews from the clothes pantry in the building.

Lately, House of Care has been assisting people who find themselves in a pinch because of the pandemic.

Volunteer Corey Reed describes himself as an assistant to Lightfoot. There are many roles for those who join the volunteer mission, but there is never a shortage of help, he said.

“We have people who will get down and get dirty and will get in the mud,” Reed said. “We also have many people who don’t want to get dirty but they want to support the mission and they support the mission by dropping off clothes, food and gift certificates or anything.”

Then there are those who simply give a donation. Occasionally there are a few like one lady that Reed said apologetically gave a $15 Publix gift card, wishing she could do more.

He asked her not to feel badly, assuring her that for the person who got it “that’s $15 more than they had.”

House of Care partners with Farm Share and Second Harvest for most of the food it gives away or prepares for the holidays.  The church is one of more than 1,000 food distribution partners, said Sheri Hubbard, Director of Community Relations for Second Harvest of the Big Bend.

“With different organizations helping to meet this need, we are thrilled,” Hubbard said. “There are a tremendous number of people struggling now. There are 150,000 that Second Harvest has served since (last) June here in Leon County. So if you’re talking about three meals a day these are people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. If you measure that out, I don’t think that you can be too generous with resources at this time.”

House of Care goes beyond food and clothes. Lightfoot said her church also assist seniors who live alone with getting to doctors’ appointments and other errands. It’s something that people have come to expect, she said.

“If I go certain places they know I’m coming with food or resources,” she said, “just a face of help.”

There seems to be no stopping or turning back for Lightfoot. She insists that she on a missing mapped out by a higher power.

“I just believe that if God sends you on a mission he is going to provide,” she said. “But on the physical side; the more you give and help people, the more people are going to give to make sure that you can do it.”

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