BRADENTON — They’d been gathering behind the Stillpoint House of Prayer since daylight.
Single mothers with infants.
They line up every Monday and Friday morning, hoping for a few dollars to help pay the rent or utility bills after the ecumenical outreach center at 1608 14th St. W. opens at 9 a.m.
“We have our hands full,” said Sister Nora Brick, the executive director and Franciscan nun who has worked among the county’s migrants and poor for more than 30 years.
“But we’ve managed to give something to everybody,” she said, relieved.
It didn’t look like it would be possible after last Friday.
Donations are down, and the center’s checking account was almost empty.
“It’s been down all summer,” said Jeffrey Belvo, a VISTA volunteer at the center. “Everything we get is strictly donations, people writing checks from the goodness of their hearts. But times are hard. Three times this summer, we ran out of money and had to turn people away.”
They didn’t have to turn anybody away Monday morning.
Checks had arrived in the mail.
“Thank God,” Brick said. “We did well in the mail over the weekend, so we were healthy this morning. We got some good donations.”
About two dozen people benefited from the financial generosity of others.
A person needing rent money receives a check for $40.
An electric bill? $30.
Water bill? $20.
One bill is the limit.
“Even a little is so important,” said Steven Hunt, presently jobless.
People who receive such assistance may only do so once every three months.
They can, however, come to the center more often for staples such as bread, rice and cooking oil, which also are donated.
The same for clothing.
By late morning, more than 70 people had come to the center.
“Some people, we see once a year. They don’t need any more help,” said volunteer Joan Warwick.
“But you do see a lot of the same faces every three months. Some people you know are desperate. It’s sad, really sad. So many people need help.”
Yet Brick and her devoted volunteers can’t help everyone, try as they might.
A woman who came in Monday had three bills to pay.
“I sent her to St. Joseph’s and prayed for a miracle,” Brick said. “She needs an angel.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.