Starting Over Ministries helps families to rebuild

By Bettie Land, Special Contributor…

HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, Ark.—Hardships can come at any given time. Some families, faced with rebuilding a life, find themselves in need of a caring hand and a kind heart.

Two members of Mountainside United Methodist Church, Hot Springs Village, recognized such a situation and took action.

When a job loss, tragedy, parental neglect or abuse occurs, the Department of Children and Family Services may have to remove juveniles from their home to foster care. The parents then must go through a rehabilitation program and have a source of income and a clean, safe, properly furnished home before they and their children can be reunited. Many parents in this situation don’t have the means to acquire the necessary furnishings.

Jeanine and Rick Budt, members of Mountainside UMC in Hot Springs Village, Ark., volunteer each week at Starting Over Ministries, Inc. PHOTO BY BETTIE LAND

In their years of experience volunteering for Court Appointed Special Advocates, Mountainside UMC members Nick and Alice Hilt learned of the need for furniture for families who reunite after displacement. They saw that various charities addressed these needs on a piecemeal basis.

The Hilts recognized that a one-stop, coordinated effort could meet all of these physical needs. This approach would not only help maintain the dignity of the clients, but it also would protect their privacy. This idea marked the beginning of Starting Over Ministries (SOM).

With the support of the Mountainside UMC leadership team, SOM was launched in September 2009. The congregation reached out to friends and family to collect used furnishings. These items were placed in storage to have them readily available to meet client needs.

“SOM is based on Matthew 19:14, as well as many other verses where Jesus clearly states our responsibility to children,” said Nick Hilt. “Our vision statement is ‘Every child deserves a clean, safe, stable home environment.’”

Ministry’s growth

Within its first five months, SOM helped 12 families furnish their homes, receiving donated furnishings from over 30 families. This God-inspired ministry continued to grow as other area churches—Piney Grove UMC and Lake Valley Community Church—became involved in the ministry. Volunteers from all three churches assisted, giving furniture donations as well as their time.

When tornadoes hit the area in the spring of 2011, the ministry’s mission expanded to include families in need of help after storms damaged their homes.

Because of this growth, a more structured business organization was necessary. In May 2011, the ministry incorporated as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Nick Hilt serves as president, and Alice Hilt as treasurer. They officially became Starting Over Ministries, Inc.

With God’s continued blessings, the ministry expanded its ability to help needy families provide their children a clean, safe, stable home. With the task of providing furniture to homes came a need for a way to transport it. Trademark Real Estate of Hot Springs held its first annual charity golf tournament in the spring of 2011, and chose SOM as the organization to receive the proceeds. The tournament raised the much-needed funds to purchase a cargo trailer to haul furnishings. Money left after the purchase of the trailer went toward buying twin beds, youth beds and cribs, which always seem to be in short supply.

‘The greater blessing’

Having storage units donated was also a blessing, but the lack of climate control became a challenge when helpers needed to organize items during the winter’s cold and the summer’s heat.

In times of extreme temperatures, Mountainside UMC offered up its all-purpose sanctuary to sort and prepare items for delivery. “We had a ‘sorting party’ with many members showing up to help,” Nick Hilt said.

After months of prayer for God to lead the ministry to finding suitable storage, a Hot Springs businessman in February provided SOM with climate-controlled warehouse space. Now, furnishings can be cleaned, sorted and stored until needed, all in one location.

God has continued to provide this ministry with volunteers, donors and support from the local community. In the three years since the founding of SOM, more than 200 families have been served.

“The Starting Over Ministry allows members of our community of faith to be the hands of Christ to our mission field,” said the Rev. J. J. Galloway, pastor of Mountainside UMC. “While the recipients of this ministry may feel blessed, those who receive, sort and fold the donations, deliver furniture, and listen to stories of despair and need are the ones who are receiving by far the greater blessing.”

For additional information about Starting Over Ministries, Inc., contact Nick Hilt at

Ms. Land is a member of Mountainside UMC in Hot Springs Village. This story first appeared in the Arkansas United Methodist, the newspaper of the Arkansas Conference.

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