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What Made Orange Great: Service organizations fill needs in Orange

By Mike Louviere

Orange is fortunate to have several active service organizations to fill various needs of its citizens.

Orange Christian Services (OCS) has occupied its building on Park Avenue for about 40 years. In that time, they have made it an efficient operation to assist clients with almost any need. OCS has a volunteer base of between 65 to 80 volunteers with about a dozen serving any given day.

OCS is open Monday thru Thursday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Friday is a reduced hours day; they are open from 10 a.m. until noon.

Volunteers work at four stations, there is a greeting desk, interview desk, the food pantry, and clothing distribution. The food pantry and the clothing section are very efficiently organized OCS is supported by over 40 member churches. Their statement is that they are “a Christian organization with dedicated volunteers. We try to show God’s love in action. Our volunteers exhibit love, compassion, and concern for people in need.”

Most of the people who request aid are not homeless people, they are people who have fallen on hard times. They could be a plant worker who has been laid off and unable to regain their lost income. It could be a single parent who had lost their job due to illness or any situation in between. Anyone who needs help is encouraged to apply.

There is a donation station at the rear of the building for clothing. A large amount of donated food comes from the annual canned food drive. There is a local food inventory taken and when food is needed it is purchased from either the food bank or from a local grocery store.

Fresh vegetables come from The Field of Plenty Donation Community Garden.

OCS received a donation of the 1.9-acre tract of land directly behind their building in 2015. The OCS Board approved the land to be used for a donation garden with the fresh produce going to OCS. This garden gives them the opportunity to give fresh vegetables and fruits to their clients, which in the past has been too costly.

The OCS building is the former YMCA building which was remodeled to serve the needs of OCS.

Friends Helping Friends (FHF) is another non-profit organization staffed by volunteers. Its funding comes from United Way of Orange County, Orange County churches that belong to FHF, and donations from private sources. Some income comes from the onsite thrift shop and its sale of goods.

FHF is a part of the 211 system whereby a person can call 211 and be directed to an agency that may be able to help with their needs.

The organization took over the “Power to Care” program from the Red Cross. The program works with Entergy to provide assistance to senior citizens who need help to pay their electric bill.

Clients who apply for aid from FHF are asked to do a small amount of work around the property to earn their aid. They may be asked to do some dusting and restocking of the office and thrift store, they may be asked to do a bit of mowing or weed eating. If they have a skill, they may be asked to do some repairs that need to be done on the premises or the building. The thought is that it gives a person some dignity to earn what they need instead of being given charity.

Donations are accepted at a building in the rear of the property. Clothing is sorted and displayed in the main building, appliances and other hard goods are checked for working condition before they are placed in the thrift store.

Friends Helping Friends is located at 2112 35th Street in Pinehurst. You may call 409-882-9717 to apply for aid or to volunteer.

The Service League of Orange was founded in 1954, making it one of the oldest organizations of its type in Orange. It is a non-profit organization of women who donate their time and efforts to help the City of Orange and Orange County.

One of their programs is Elderfun, a program that was started to bring activities to residents of local nursing homes.

Fine Arts is a program to provide art and art education to fourth graders in Orange County schools designed to expand awareness of art.

The Follies is the popular “Super Variety Show” that is held every three years to raise funds for community projects. The Follies have been held for over 60 years.

Scholarships is another project of the League that provides scholarships for high school students in Orange County schools.

Gifts, Etc. is the gift shop operated by the Service League that is located in the Orange Baptist Hospital building. Proceeds from the shop go to Service League of Orange Grants, Orange Christian Services, and the Rainbow Room.

The first Toy Coffee was held in 1956, usually on the first Thursday of December. The coffees bring in needed toys and money. In 2019 the coffee saw 631 toys donated and provided $4,807 in funds to the Salvation Army of Orange.

The Service League of Orange has been recognized as one of the oldest non-profits and having greater assets than other non-profits in Texas.