Help Office providing more than food assistance

The Owensboro Help Office, 1316 W. 4th St., held two open houses Wednesday to spread the word about its many services and how much need it sees in the community.

“We just wanted to raise awareness,” said Sydney Settle, chairwoman of the Help Office board. “A lot of people know our name, but they haven’t actually been in the doors and know what happens every single day. Also, people think we’re just a food pantry, but we help with utilities, rent, a lot of things.”

The Help Office, founded in 1972, is funded by churches, organizations, individuals, local grants and foundations.

Executive Director Angela Settle said there is often a misconception about its funding avenues.

“A lot of people sometimes think we get government funds, and we do not,” she said, “and we’re not affiliated with the United Way.”

One of the Help Office’s main roles is serving as a clearinghouse to vet people seeking assistance from a variety of charities.

“Before COVID, they would have to come here and be interviewed and we’d give them a voucher to go to other places, like the Salvation Army and churches,” Angela Settle said. “But since COVID hit, when we didn’t have in-person (interviews), we have a computer system, and while they’ll still require clients to come here, it’s not a voucher. We all share Charity Tracker, which is a great tool for people with benevolent programs.”

While the Help Office wants to make people aware it does much more than provide food assistance, that’s still a big part of the need it meets. On average, it gives out 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of food a month.

Angela Settle said the decision to partner with Tri-State Food Bank has paid huge dividends.

“Shortly after I came (here) I was approached by several people in the community and asked why weren’t we part of Tri-State Food Bank,” she said. “It’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done, especially with (the demand) we’re facing right now, because we can purchase meat, canned goods for 15 cents a pound, versus what an individual could purchase at a grocery store.

“Monetary donations are great because of our purchasing power and how we can get a lot more items for our money. But we will always take donated food items.”

Angela Settle said requests for assistance have risen dramatically since 2021, with the number of people served last year being as much as four times those served the same month the previous year.

“I saw it coming, because month after month I was having to purchase more food,” she said. “Our donations from individuals are down because of the cost of food, gas prices; everybody is being affected. It’s astronomical. Three to four times more people we are feeding from one year to another when you do the comparison.”

Angela Settle said one of the biggest needs is personal hygiene products, since those items can’t be purchased with food stamps.

The Help Office also wants to get the word out that its clothes closet is well used and includes far more than clothes. It’s always in need of blankets, towels, sheets, pots and pans and any other basic home needs. It also accepts children’s items, such as toys, and home decor.

There is no cost for any of the items.

“When you think about the people getting out of prison, the people coming out of homeless shelters, they’re starting with nothing and they come to us,” Angela Settle said. “They need anything you cook with. They have needs that they can’t afford, but in our closet they can find treasures, like a book or toy for their child, or a picture for their room, and that’s the beauty of having as many items as we can, because it’s not just what they need, but they can also ave something that makes them feel proud of their home.”

The Help Office also has funds to help residents with rent and utility payments, as well as other needs that are assessed on a case-by-cases basis.

Angela Settle said staffing of the office has been aided by Goodwill and GRADD covering some or all of multiple employees’ salaries. But the facility is always in need of more volunteers.

“We have great volunteers,” she said. “Volunteers are still the driving force of the Help Office.”

The Help Office is open 9 a.m. to noon every weekday but Wednesday. For more information about its services, visit