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Kanawha Valley's oldest mission trying to revive its legacy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Yvonne Hissom wonders what her late father and grandfather would think about the dwindling support of the Kanawha Valley's oldest mission project.

"We're not getting the help we used to. Since the economy hit, our donations have decreased, but our clientele hasn't. People don't stop needing," said Hissom, who took over as director of the Hissom Intercity Mission when her father, Earl G. Hissom III, died in 2007.

HIM has been serving Charleston's needy since 1934 and operates a food pantry, a thrift store and offers transitional housing and other services.

Since 2009, the mission's list of people in need of its services has increased by 30 percent while its donations have decreased by 80 percent.

 The mission used to receive about 30,000 pounds of food donations a month. Now, average shipments are about 4,000 pounds, according to Yvonne.

"My family's motto, and the mission's motto, has always been, 'We see a need, we fill it.' It's sad because this is the first time in years I've had to actually look at people and tell them I can't help," she said. "We are the people who are supposed to help others, and we need help ourselves."

The mission is supported entirely by donations and has never received federal funding.

While the organization is struggling financially, it is not lacking in support from volunteers.

"We have a small but mighty army. Most of our volunteers come from our food pantry line, and they are wonderful, caring people. They're really amazing," Yvonne said. "The people who have less often give more."

David Groves has been working as a volunteer at the mission for 15 years.

"I enjoy it very much. You get up in the morning and know that you're feeding people who really need food," he said.

Although the mission is struggling financially, its directors aren't giving up goals of expanding the mission's reach to help the needy.

Yvonne hopes to add a learning center in the near future. The center would provide computers and other resources for people searching for jobs.

"Sometimes, people who come here say they heard about us through their parents and grandparents who also used our services. We want to stop that cycle of poverty," said Jacob McGill, HIM's resource development coordinator. "A lot of people are born into poverty, and we want to help them get a new start."

To contact the Hissom Interdenominational Mission, call 304-343-7046 or email director@hissommission.org.

Donations can be dropped off at 1305 Pennsylvania Ave. in Charleston.

"In a business like this, the purpose is to have less clientele. We want to make it so that not as many people in our area need us to have a healthy, happy life."

For more information, visit www.hissommission.org.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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