Helping others by giving a hand up and not a hand out means enabling those in need to be empowered by local organizations. The Alma Randolph Charitable Foundation, which will celebrate its 25th year this summer, helps area families with a hand up through the Hands Up To Succeed, or HUTS, program.
“Our mission is to make the lives of disadvantaged families healthier, safer, and better-rounded by upgrading their living conditions through the Foundation’s HUTS Project and to improve the mental well-being (confidence level) of disadvantaged children by providing them with new clothing during the school year,” said Alma Randolph, a community leader, accomplished singer and president of the foundation.
The foundation emphasizes the power of a hand up and not a hand out, and, with the help of numerous donors, volunteers and sponsors, it seeks to empower area families. The focus of helping the entire family enabled Randolph to step out in faith to create HUTS two years ago.
“I felt God calling me to do something different and went to our board with the idea,” said Randolph. “I had no idea how it would happen, I just knew that God would take care of it.”
It’s this faith-filled journey that makes the HUTS program stand out.
Each HUTS project may look a little different, based on the family’s needs. In many projects, the house gets an interior facelift — there may be new bedding, replacement furniture and appliances and other additions during the makeover period. Area grocery stores even gift the families with groceries and other supplies.
During a project weekend, the selected family is taken in a Limos by Knight limousine to an area hotel, typically the Holiday Inn Downtown, where they have a pizza party sponsored by Domino’s. The family spends 12 hours out of the home while volunteers prepare it for their arrival.
On Saturday, Nov. 10, the HUTS program revealed the latest project home to a family that’s been homeless for 10 months. Alisa Smoot and her three children spent those months living with family in less-than-ideal conditions.
“It was a roof over our heads and we learned to make the best of it,” Smoot said.
When Smoot left her apartment, the only item in it was a bed frame. At the reveal, she and her children walked into a home that was fully furnished and decorated, thanks to the generous volunteers from the HUTS program.
Reveal for the Smoot family as part of the HUTS program. | Photos by AP Imagery
“I was grateful that people that don’t even know me wanted to help our family out any way they can,” Smoot said.
Giving back has always been an important lesson for Smoot to teach her children.
“I never had tons of money, but I tell my kids to give,” Smoot said, relating the story of recently seeing a homeless man and realizing he needed help.
“Even though I’d just gotten this UK sweatshirt, I gave it to him, “Smoot said. “It was all I had with me and he needed it more than me.”
Smoot said she truly believes if you give to others with the right spirit, it’ll come back to you.
Smoot speaks frankly to her children D’Mariel,15, Alayshia,14, and Alana, 9, about the importance of setting goals and plans for after high school.
“They all know that they will need to go to college; they know how important it is,” Smoot said.
While discussing the importance of post-graduation plans with her children, Smoot said that something just clicked.
“I realized that if I’m trying to show it’s important, then I need to set an example,” Smoot said. “So I started college!”
Every day, she dropped the kids off at school and then went to school for herself. “Some days may be dark, but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” Smoot said.
She will finish a dental assistant program next week, a long-time dream. She had put it off for years, but decided it was time and despite their living conditions, has found success.
In its two years, Hands Up to Succeed has made a difference in the city.
“We’ve been able to bless 15 families,” Randolph said. “Never would I have thought this possible — it has far surpassed my expectations.”
Her favorite part of each project is when the families arrive home.
“They’re overwhelmed and speechless,” Randolph said.
Smoot echoes the influence of the HUTS program.
“They’re making an impact — not only on parents but on kids,” Smoot said. “You can always give back. Someone always has it worse than you. You can change people’s lives. The HUTS program is giving families tools to do better.”
Not only has HUTS impacted local families, but also other cities. Prestonburg, Bowling Green, and Muhlenberg County are interested in implementing similar programs in their communities. Representatives from each city or county have shadowed HUTS volunteers and organizers and are looking forward to bringing this simple concept to those in need.
There are plans in place for a Christmas HUTS project that will serve two families. Randolph looks forward to the Christmas projects.
“Christmas is a fun time,” Randolph said. “So many people are in a giving spirit!”