Brother Bill’s Helping Hand is Focused on Neighbor Choice

The NTFB Feeding Network partner distributes food to as many as 1,400 families each month from its West Dallas grocery store.

Along with groceries, Clara Mode says she loves visiting the grocery store at Brother Bill’s Helping Hand because she gets to see some of her favorite people.

“I genuinely love coming here,” says Clara, who is 85 and lives in senior housing in Dallas. “Everybody is so nice, and the food is just wonderful.”

Clara is one of between 1,200 and 1,400 neighbors who visit the grocery store at Brother Bill’s Helping Hand in West Dallas each month. After serving a record number of people during the pandemic, Chief Operating Officer Courtney Cuthbert says they are now seeing more neighbors than ever before, including about 150 new families each month, which is unusual.

“We know that inflation has a lot to do with that,” she says, adding that the end of COVID-era benefits has also been a factor in the increased need.

Created by pastor Bill Harrod in the 1940s, Bàn tay giúp đỡ của anh Bill now operates a free grocery store, a community health clinic and several other programs from its headquarters in West Dallas. With the support of a North Texas Food Bank grant, Brother Bill’s also opened a South Dallas Community Market last year in partnership with BridgeBuilders.

The grocery store and market are part of NTFB’s Feeding Network, which means they are among the around 500 organizations that receive food from the NTFB to provide to neighbors facing hunger. Both the West and South Dallas neighborhoods where they distribute groceries are considered food desserts, and Dallas County as a whole has a 13.1% food insecurity rate, compared with the national rate of 10.4%.

Courtney says they’ve long offered neighbors the ability to select their food through a client choice-based grocery store setting. Neighbors walk through the store with a volunteer and a grocery cart to select shelf-stable items, canned goods, produce and other products based on their family size.

“We love that model because of the dignity it shows our families,” Courtney says. “We call it a grocery store on purpose, and we want it to look and feel like a grocery store. We want families to not feel shame when they come here. We love you and we want you to feel like you’re shopping just like you would anywhere else.”

Along with offering its regular grocery store hours, Brother Bill’s provides homebound neighbors a food delivery program, and it also has an e-pantry that allows for families to place an order online for pickup in the Brother Bill’s parking lot on designated days.

The nonprofit’s delivery program is carried out by volunteers who dedicate time on the second Saturday of each month to drive groceries to between 60 and 100 homebound seniors or neighbors who can’t visit the grocery store due to illness or injury. An additional 100 families typically utilize the e-pantry option each month.

“If they can come here, we want that because it allows for client choice,” Courtney says. “But (these options) work well when they can’t come here.”

After families receive food, Courtney says they work to engage them in other services, whether healthy cooking classes, their medical clinic, Bible studies, ESL instruction and more.

“We want to work ourselves out of a job, so they no longer need us,” she says.

Neighbor Mary Martinez, who visits the grocery store each month, says she appreciates the cooking classes and also has benefited from diabetes education offered at Brother Bill’s. She adds that the food she receives allows her to have money required for other necessities.

“Meat and breakfast food are priced really high so anything I can get here is a big help,” she says. “It helps me pay other bills.”

Clara Mode says she appreciates that she’s able to pick out the groceries she knows she will use. If she has any food left over, she shares it with her neighbors.

“I enjoy doing that because they don’t always have a hot meal,” she says.

Courtney says they emphasize to those in Dallas that hunger continues to be a crucial issue.

“Hunger is real. It’s a reality. Our people face a lot of barriers every single day and usually it’s not just hunger — it’s hunger but also it’s struggling financially or with finding a job or with a medical issue,” she says. “If you start with hunger first then you can start tackling the other things because if their basic necessities are met, they’ll be more open to other things.”

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