Helping Hands was founded in 1976 by volunteers under the leadership of Bob Reeves, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Rockwall. The story is told that volunteers gathered items for Christmas for needy children in the area. Then household goods and clothing were collected. When Bob ran out of room in the trunk of his car, Claudette Johnson stored items in her garage. In 1977, the organization moved into a trailer, donated by Don and Mary Turpin, at the corner of Emma Jane and Goliad. In 1978 Claudette and Bob were elected co-presidents of the Advisory Board.
Ada Mooney became the first Thrift Store manager when the store moved to Bourne and then on to Kenway Shopping Center.
Rockwall Women´s League established the Children´s Medical Assistance fund, to be administered by Helping Hands, with a $1,000 donation in 1982. In 1987 United Way of Metropolitan Dallas conducted a campaign in Rockwall and awarded Helping Hands a $17,500 Venture Grant. That allowed the agency to hire its first executive director, Sarah McCormick.
Current executive director, Margo Nielsen, was hired in 1989. In 1991 the Board began raising funds to build the Robert D. Reeves Social Service Center at 102 South First Street. On May 15, 1992 the agency moved into the 13,000 square foot facility with Helping Hands Thrift Store, Food Pantry and Assistance and Referral program on the upper level. The Texas Department of Human Services, Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services and the Texas Department of Health leased space from Helping Hands on the lower level.
The Reeves Service Center became a hub for a dozen social service providers including CASA, Habitat for Humanity, Rockwall County Committee on Aging, the Rockwall Bar Association´s monthly legal clinic, Community Services, Inc., the Community Resource Coordinating Group, and others.
In 1998 Helping Hands used donations from John and Kim Rody, Dr. Bruce Paton, and the PepsiCo Foundation to establish Cisco Networking Academies at Rockwall High School and Royse City High School. The academies were developed by Cisco to develop a workforce of certified technicians that could service Cisco´s systems.
In 2000 the agency opened its own Health Center. Under a State grant, Rockwall women who did not qualify for Medicaid were able to get prenatal care at the clinic. In cooperation with Lake Pointe Medical Center, women were able to receive quality prenatal care and delivery in their home County. In April of 2006, the clinic lost the services of its obstetrician and moved into family practice.
By 2002 the agency was again out of space. On retreat the Board recognized that a significant portion of the annual revenue came from thrift store sales. In 2004 the Board purchased the Lakeside Church of Christ campus at 950 Williams Street. In January of 2005, after major remodeling, Helping Hands moved onto the site.
Also in 2002, the agency established a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) clinic for victims of rape and sexual assault. The women of Soroptimist International of Rockwall provided a $15,000 grant to help purchase a colposcope for the program.
The agency held its first Back to School Fair under the direction of Melody East, Emergency Assistance Director.
The Assistance and Referral program settled into Building A which houses a large food pantry and several interviewing rooms. The Bar Association continues to hold a legal clinic every third Tuesday between 4 and 7 p.m. Building C houses Lone Star CASA, Rockwall Area Habitat for Humanity and Rockwall County Committee on Aging. Building B, the old sanctuary, houses the Thrift Store, Boutique and administrative offices.
Meanwhile, the upper level of the Reeves Center became home to Texas Workforce, now known as Workforce Solutions. The lower level continues to house the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Center of Helping Hands.
In August and September of 2005, the agency became the main donations center and assistance center for evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More than 1,000 evacuees received help. The Rockwall ISD opened two gymnasiums for staging areas for the massive donations, and dozens of volunteers sorted through and organized the food, clothing and household goods that were received.
In the fall of 2006, Helping Hands celebrated 30 years of “Making a Difference” helping others in Rockwall.
The growth in East Rockwall County makes the County the fifth fastest growing county in the nation and more than a third of the applicants served by the agency live in the Royse City area. It only made sense to have a presence there so the agency opened a Thrift Store in Royse City.
Mission Statement, revised in 2011
Rockwall County Helping Hands serves Rockwall residents by alleviating financial crisis and providing a medical home to the underserved.