When Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner first got the phone call some 18 months ago, she admitted she was skeptical.
It was a woman from Cypress, Texas, named Virginia Valentine, who said she represented an organization called Angels Serving With A Purpose. Valentine had seen news reports on television about how Hope Mills was struggling from the after-effects of back-to-back hurricanes in the fall of 2017. She wanted to offer her organization’s help.
It took more than a year and a half, but when Valentine and her volunteers arrived in Hope Mills just over a week ago, they found local residents who were still in need of help long after the storms had passed.
Valentine and her group have been in operation for four years. They travel to any area of the United States that has suffered a disaster or an emergency or where there are simply people with no resources who need help.
“I have a heart and a love for this,’’ said Valentine, who is originally from Arkansas and grew up picking cotton. “We have started doing this with my foundation, and I want to continue doing this.’’
She watches news reports on local and national television to find out the places that might be in need of her charity. Then she reaches out to the officials of those cities, starting with the mayor, and finds local organizations she can partner with to distribute what she has to offer.
She recently arrived in Hope Mills with two rented trucks and two vans filled with her and her team of eight volunteers.
They brought along furniture, clothing, toiletries, cleaning products, brooms and mops. Some of the items were donated to Valentine; others she purchased with her own money.
She doesn’t screen anyone who comes to one of her giveaways. “We just bless them,’’ she said. “We try not to discriminate or hurt. I do this generously, willingly and lovingly. Everything is free. I don’t charge anybody for anything.’’
Valentine’s giveaway set up shop at the Hope Mills Shrine Club. Warner put Valentine in contact with the Shriners because she felt their site provided enough parking and space for Valentine to spread out all the things she planned to give to people.
News of the giveaway was quickly spread by word of mouth and social media the day before the event was held.
Warner said even before Valentine’s volunteers had completed setting up, people were already lining up to take advantage of the event.
Expecting a mad rush for the various free items, Warner said the atmosphere was calm and orderly. “They let them come in five at a time,’’ she said. “Gradually, people would take what they wanted, then the next wave came in. Nobody was grabbing. Nobody was fussing over anything.’’
On many occasions, Warner said, Valentine would meet with people, talk with them and ask them what their specific needs were. In some cases, where families wanted the same item, Valentine would talk with them and try to determine who had the greatest need in an attempt to make sure the item went to the most deserving family.
Warner said she saw a young soldier, who had a wife and baby and no furniture, pick up a sofa, chair and some baby items. An elderly gentleman who lost everything in the 2017 floods got a recliner and a chair.
When the giveaway ended and there were a few items left, Valentine and her group didn’t want to take anything back to Texas with them, so Warner arranged for it to be donated to a local charity that agreed to take it.
Valentine and her volunteers stayed in Hope Mills through the weekend, worshipping at a local church on Sunday and returning to Texas the following Monday.
“The people that needed stuff got the message and they came,’’ Warner said. “It was very calm and orderly. It was a good thing.’