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‘That’s why Christian Help is Christian Help’

MORGANTOWN — On a rainy July morning six years ago at Christian Help, a WVU student with the geographically lyrical name of Leonardo Trinidad was volunteering his time at the ecumenical outreach organization on Walnut Street that serves those in need.

Trinidad, a Boston native, couldn’t help but engage in some canned laughter while working in the food pantry that day.

“Hey,” he said, giving a little chuckle of surprise. “Campbell’s New England Clam Chowder.” Or, chowdah, as he pronounced it. “Something for everybody.”

Which pretty much gets it at Christian Help, said Colleen Lankford, the organization’s current executive director.

Especially during the pandemic times of 2021, she said, with their out-of-work angst and worries over what the next variant may bring.

Since the spring of 2020, in fact, Christian Help has been laboring to bring the light of service to COVID’s shadows.

In that pandemic year alone, present-day volunteers logged nearly 3,000 service hours, the organization said, despite quarantines and shutdowns.

Had they been compensated for the work they did for free, the paychecks would have come in at almost $64,000.

The 7,000-plus bags of clothing donated by the community were valued at more than $900,000.

And the 25,201 pounds of food neighbors donated would have make the grocery store readout blink $42,842.

Just last week, some 700 families were served at the organization’s annual food and toy giveaway.

Donations made the event possible.

“It’s a generous community,” Lankford said. “And we really appreciate the support.”


“Community” and “support” are the two watchwords of the organization that began its life in 1975 in a little storefront on Beechurst Avenue, overlooking the rails of WVU’s Personal Rapid Transit system.

The PRT when on line that same year, coincidentally, and both are in the business of moving people forward.

Christian Help had its beginnings in the Catholic community here.

It was co-founded by the Rev. John DiBacco, a now-priest who ministered at various parishes in the University City; and Sister Thecla Shiel, an Ursuline nun who grew up near Scott’s Run and was principal of Morgantown’s St. Francis Grade School at the time.

The operation basically started out as a food pantry, but the mission and ministry grew.

Christian Help eventually moved to its present location, a five-story building at 219 Walnut St., also downtown.

Now, as then, it’s a place people go for the assistance many of them never thought they would need.

At Christian Help, “something for everybody” also takes the form of holistic betterment.

It comes in the form of a professional suit for a job. The organization has racks of such fashions, offered free, for the interview – and that all-important, first-impression factor.

Or, a course of how to ace said interview, along with a primer on how to build, or refresh a resume.

When COVID clamped down on gatherings, those classes were offered remotely, Lankford said.

For the full range of just what Christian Help does, and how to apply for its various instructional offerings, visit The phone number is 304-296-022. The email is:

‘That’s why Christian Help is Christian Help’

The people who teach those classes are volunteers, also, Lankford said.

Last week she attended the memorial service of one of them.

Earline Tate, of Osage, died last month at the age of 96. More than three decades of her life were spent volunteering at Christian Help, a role she took on for as long as she was physically able to do so.

“When I was coming up, I didn’t have a lot, so it gives me joy to help others,” Tate once told The Dominion Post.

“That’s why Christian Help is Christian Help,” Lankford said.

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