By Arlene Colcombe
The Good News
When her last child moved out, there was an empty room in Angie Valentini’s house. So, she prayed and asked God what she should do with it.
And He answered.
“I saw – literally – boxes piled to the ceiling. I got excited,” she says. “I didn’t know what it meant yet.”
It was soon revealed that she would give to the needy in Southwest Florida, and people who heard of her vision began sending her boxes, filled with donations of clothing and household items. Soon, people started telling her about different needs they knew of in the community.
This was the humble birth of Helps Outreach, a local charity that offers food and household materials to people in need – for free. This September will be Helps Outreach’s 10th anniversary.
“It’s more than the ‘stuff,'” says Angie, a petite brunette who operates in fast forward most of the time.
The stuff may bring the people in, but everything in the building, including the staff, points people to Jesus.
In fact, Angie works personally with each client. She identifies the client’s needs, and works to provide for them. However, there are careful guidelines about what each person may have.
In addition to meeting a person’s physical needs, Angie tries to point them to other organizations that may help them further and encourages them to get involved in a local church.
Yet, there is no mistaking who is in charge at Helps Outreach – God. God prompts people to bring in donations, and He brings in people who need help, she says.
“We’re the middleman,” she explains. “We give it freely.”
Freely, but not irresponsibly.
Angie monitors the clients to ensure that people don’t get materials to sell or give to others. A person who wants to get help at the outreach must come in person.
“They can’t abuse it – that’s when we get tough,” she adds.
More donations are always needed. Materials are donated by local churches, fundraisers, charities and individuals, many of whom first came to Helps Outreach for help themselves.
Paying it forward
Claudio and Margarita Carastro first came to Helps Outreach for food and clothing for their children. Now, their finances are better, and the couple, who attend St. Peter’s Catholic Church in East Naples, volunteer whenever they can.
Claudio says he enjoys spending his days off here.
“I feel good helping people,” Claudio adds. “It’s better to be helping people than to stay on the couch.”
Other donors support Helps Outreach because they know Angie and believe in the organization. Fred Klaucke, who attends the Valentini’s home church, First Baptist of Naples, is one of those supporters.
“For years, Angie has had the same vision – to freely help people in need,” he says. “She gives them hope because of the message that is conveyed. It’s free, but you get a life-saving message.”
Angie’s husband Joe, a salesman who is also a part-time realtor with Tithe and More, also helps by picking up donations on his days off. However, donors are asked to bring items directly to Helps Outreach whenever possible.
Many have been generous with their resources, including First Baptist, which covers the cost of the rent for the warehouse building the outreach occupies.
Clients who visit Helps Outreach immediately experience the love the organization exudes. Rosa Batista recently waited there patiently with her son Aaron. She has been to Helps Outreach before, but she recently brought a friend who is going through a difficult, unexpected transition.
“She needs a bed and a sofa. They’re moving. They haven’t got anything,” Batista explains.
Next to the waiting room is a tiny, serene chapel, with just a rugged mounted cross, a few chairs and a prayer bench with open Bible.
Times are tough, and needs are great. Yet, regardless of the number of people that pass through the outreach, Angie and her staff never lose sight of the mission.
“I value whatever comes in. God puts it in their heart to donate, and they are entrusting me that it goes where it’s supposed to go. He always sends the people who need it.”
Donations of all kinds are always in need and can be dropped at the back door of the Helps Outreach facility at 2025 J&C Blvd., off of Airport Pulling Road just north of Pine Ridge. Be sure to take a moment to see Angie. Helps Outreach can be reached at 239-593-3226.