- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

SUMMITVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Mary Ward gives to the community not because she has a lot, but because she knows what it’s like to have nothing.

She grew up poor - there were five kids in her family and her father was a disabled veteran, so there wasn’t a lot of money or resources.

Her husband grew up similarly, and when they saw an empty building on Main Street after church one day, they agreed it was the perfect place to offer some hope to families.

Four or five years later, the HOPE Center, 101 N. Main St., helps provide a safe multipurpose center for families in need in Summitville.

“People always say somebody should do something,” Ward told The Herald Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1wqCPhP ). “Well, we thought, ‘we’re somebody.’”

The HOPE Center, which stands for Helping Other People Excel, gives away fresh produce every Friday, opens a food pantry every third Tuesday and Saturday, has an adult exercise program and activities for kids.

“They usually swarm in right after school,” Ward said.

The center is open 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

After Ward and her husband bought the building, they spent two years renovating it to make it an inviting place. There are plenty of couches, games, books, movies and room for families to come in and relax.

The HOPE Center opened in June 2011, and ever since, some kids come in to get their daily free snack and leave, while others hang around for hours to play video games, pool, ping pong or watch movies.

The HOPE Center also has programs for kids, like a new cooking club.

“There’s a kids cooking club?” 11-year-old Justin Wisnieski asked Ward upon the realization.

“Yeah, you missed the first two, didn’t ya?” she replied.

“I didn’t even know there was one.”

So Ward told him to start checking the bulletin board that has information like that, including information about the center’s kids gardening club, which meets 2 to 3 p.m. today.

Most of the kids who go there after school are from Summitville, but the HOPE Center aids people in surrounding communities, particularly Fairmount and Alexandria.

Ward said about 150 families are signed up for the food pantry, 26 of whom have signed up since August.

The center distributes about 1,000 pounds of fresh produce every week, and in October it gave away more than 1,800 pounds from the food pantry.

Wards said last year, the HOPE Center distributed 54,935 pounds of food.

“That’s a lot of food going to people,” she said.

Most of the food in the pantry comes from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Indiana, but local businesses and organizations often hold food drives for the HOPE Center.

Most churches help or somehow support the organization, too, Ward said. Even though Ward’s church is partially why the center is in Summitville, the goal isn’t to preach at anyone. They have some books in the building, and if the kids ask questions about faith or religion, she’ll answer to the best of her abilities.

But the goal is to help the immediate needs of families in the community.

“We may not (be able to) do everything,” Ward said, “but we can do something.”

___

Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com

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