Anita June Clark grew up with nothing....not even parents.
"When you grow up in and out of foster homes, things like that you're put up for adoption, you turn 18, they open the door and it's time for you to go. So I know what it's like to have nothing," says Clark.
Yet today, Clark is the one hundreds-perhaps even thousands- of local people look to when they're working through rough times and need a helping hand. Clark didn't want any other child to know what it's like to have nothing. So she started the, "Helping Hands of Utica, NY" Facebook page, putting thousands of local people in need in touch with generous donors in the community who may be able to help them, with new or gently-used donated items.
"I did not expect to have 4000 people in a year. I really didn't," says Clark. "If somebody needs something, they will make a post. If I don't respond to them, I don't have that item. But if another person does, they'll say 'I have it,'" says Clark.
The response to the Facebook page Clark established proved what many suspect: the need, locally, is great. But so are the hearts of the donors.
"I'm a single mother of two children and I work, so I still, sometimes struggle," says FB group member Colleen Moises. "As soon as the fire victims started, she was on within 10 minutes of finding out about it," said Moises of Helping Hands of Utica, NY founder Clark. "She sacrifices so much and doesn't even give it a second thought. She's just amazing. She helps everybody."
Clark puts people in need in touch with potential donors through her Facebook page all year. But this month, Christmas presents fill her upstairs hallway. Clark inspects them, wraps them, and writes a gender and age on the wrapping paper, so that when parents in need call, she knows what presents to put aside for them. People bring donations to her West Utica home. The need is gargantuan. So is the demand on her time. But Clark only wants one thing in return.
"Everyone's like, you know, 'what do you want?' I don't want anything. I want pictures. I want pictures to see of the children opening their presents. I want it plastered all over the page. That's my highlight. That's what I want to see," says Clark.
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