Haulin' helper

| October 02, 2007

Leaky roofs, sinking floors and malfunctioning toilets are common household problems that can be repaired with a little work and money. But when someone lives below the poverty line, those small problems can turn into nightmares as contractors demand more money than the family can pay. That’s where Bill Hutson comes in.

The Greencastle, Ind.-based National Freight driver grew up visiting residents in a nursing home where his mother worked as a cook. “I developed a passion for the elderly and needy early,” Hutson says.

Today, he hauls high-dollar grocery merchandise for Trader Joe’s between Indianapolis and Atlanta, but he got his start in trucking 27 years ago with a produce hauler recommended by another driver. Before that, Hutson worked for a construction company whose owner encouraged him to help elderly people in need.

“He told me, ‘to the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world,’” Hutson says of his former boss.

In 2002, Hutson decided to start doing volunteer work on his own. A woman at his church needed major work done on her trailer, so Hutson started Table Talk Ministries as a non-profit to make repairs on the homes of needy families. The staff for Table Talk Ministries is made up of several volunteers, including an electrician, church members and some Indiana State troopers.

Last year, the organization made $47,000 dollars in repairs, but only $4,000 came in the form of donations. Hutson paid the rest of the costs out of his own pocket.

Hutson estimates he has helped 30 people, 15 within the last year. But there is a waiting list now as funds are dwindling. “There are 24 people on the waiting list who need new roofs, which cost about $5,000,” he says. “They are on the waiting list because I just don’t have the money.”

Hutson says federal, state and private non-profits agencies refer clients to Table Talk, so he’s trying to raise donations by word of mouth and via the organization’s website, where contributors can make online donations.

“Most of the donations come from people who know me or know about it,” Hutson says. “They know when they give that money, it will all go to the job. One hundred percent of the donations go into the outreach.”

Though donations are scarce, the organization has had property donated recently, and there is someone already lined up to move in the vacant home. So far, the biggest monetary donation has been $1,900, and Hutson says monetary donations are best because he doesn’t have a warehouse to store supplies.

If he can’t make a repair, he calls contractors to find someone who can help. “Nine times out of 10, I can find someone to do it for free,” he says.

To receive aid from Table Talk, individuals must be at or below median income.

“If you are 50 years old and make $26,000 a year, you don’t qualify for any federal programs, so we try to fill in that gray area,” he says. “Another group in need is the disabled, and there are government programs for them, but the typical waiting list is two years.” “That is a long time to wait if your furnace isn’t working.” Hutson says he also tries to educate those in need of other funding opportunities, such as a U.S. Grant for $7,500 for homeowners in areas with populations less than 50,000.

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