The story of Helping Hand Worldwide is the story of one woman, passionate and determined, who has changed the face of hunger relief in communities throughout Orange County. This woman is Mrs. Sita Helms, founder and current Executive Director of Helping Hand Worldwide. Her story began in 1984 when she discovered a nearby neighbor living alone, hungry, dehydrated and in need of medical attention. Sita immediately contacted Meals on Wheels and arranged for Orange County Social Services to provide the help her neighbor so desperately needed. Moved by his condition, she took action and began volunteering and serving as a Board Member for Meals on Wheels. Sita was dismayed to find 14 of the 16 elderly people she visited each week had no food in the refrigerator, were socially isolated, lacking in funds and in poor health caused by malnutrition. In the beginning, Sita assisted these seniors on her own with essential food and hygiene items that Meals on Wheels did not provide.
As time passed, Sita saw the need for hunger assistance grow rapidly among the underserved in her own community. People also required help with other basic necessities. Sita approached local grocery stores and other shops for In-Kind donations of fresh food, fruit, bakery items, staples such as rice and pasta, and hygiene items. Soon local retailers began phoning with offers of available food and asking how they could help those in need. The seeds of Helping Hand Worldwide were planted and continued to grow as Sita worked with low-income families, seniors, single Moms, the disabled and children’s groups. In 1997, Sita was asked by a neighboring city to form the non-profit, after bringing to light the devastating effects of hunger and social isolation on senior citizens living below the poverty level. The mission Sita created for Helping Hand Worldwide was based on a very simple philosophy, take the food directly to the people who need it the most.
Helping Hand Worldwide was founded to provide healthy food to the poor, free of charge. The mission Sita envisioned included a way to give community members the tools they need to build strong communities which would reduce social isolation and depression. These two objectives grew into something much bigger than Sita ever imagined and are still at the forefront of our mission today. The hunger relief program continued to blossom for the next ten years as Sita and her volunteers helped feed the hungry in cities throughout south Orange County and later at Camp Pendleton. In 2009, Sita purchased three refrigerated food delivery trucks for the organization. The Mobile Food Pantry Program as we know it today was formed based on a multisite distribution program that was quite unique at the time and in fact, remains so today.
Helping Hand Worldwide has grown remarkably since inception. We remain dedicated to alleviating hunger and improving quality of life for recipients in our own neighborhoods. We operate with a staff of 5 part-time employees, along with Sita, and we rely on our pool of 250 dedicated volunteers. We presently work within a network of 45 business partners and retailers which enables us to provide a broader range of support for the hungry than we could alone. Our Board of Directors are committed to our mission as well. They are continually discovering new methods to help us at the corporate level and most importantly, they spread the word about the crucial work we are doing. Sita’s determination and passion is still at the foundation of everything we do. Thanks to her three decades of hard work, we have been able to increase the number of recipients we serve from just 500 annually in 2009 to 46,000 in 2016!