This article appeared in the Friday Flyer on 9/9/16
by Pat Van Dyke Most everyone desires to make a positive difference in the community and in the lives of those that one touches, but it isn’t always easy to know how to begin. Canyon Lake resident, Robert “Bob” Sasser found himself in this dilemma in 2005. He knew that the Lord had a special ministry in which he was to become involved, but Bob just didn’t expect to be the founder and director of the ministry.
While Bob was recovering from a devastating injury that he experienced after a successful career, he knew that he didn’t want to “just retire.” He wanted his life to have meaning. He prayed and searched for the open path in his life and discovered the reward of helping others. This led to the concept of “Helping Hands.”
Helping Hands provides concerned people a pathway to serve the disabled, elderly, homeless, abused and low income with compassion and caring. They strive to match people in need with people that have the ability to help.
The Helping Hands Group was founded in 2005; however, in 2015 it became a formal organization. This year, Helping Hands was given the status of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. At the present time, Helping Hands currently serves the communities of Canyon Lake, Menifee, Quail Valley and Lake Elsinore.
Bob, along with his wife Linda, sees Helping Hands as having a very definite but ever changing purpose in the surrounding communities. Bob says, “As we see change in the needs of the community, Helping Hands Group changes to meet that need. Sometimes, it is as little as offering a kind word or assistance to a service provider in the area. Other times, it is as physical as repairing a wheel chair ramp in a senior’s home.”
At the heart of the helping Hands Group is a team of volunteers who are willing to make a difference in other’s lives. Each volunteer has their own area of expertise, which includes carpenters, electricians, plumbers and people who can take the time to make welfare calls to seniors in their neighborhoods. The jobs can be as simple as taking in the trash cans, but they find that serving people in need changes their own lives. What may seem to be a small act of kindness to one person speaks volumes to others.
Bob is the “captain of the ship” in Helping Hands, but he has close to 40 individuals that are standing behind him waiting for an assignment. When help is needed, Bob sends out a group email and volunteers respond according to their ability to help.
Reaching out to the homeless is perhaps the most difficult task that involves the volunteers of Helping Hands. The volunteers find themselves visiting riverbeds, parks and other specific areas in which homeless people congregate.
Bob remembers an especially difficult time when he and his wife Linda found it necessary to go into the actual lakebed encampment of the homeless. Bob recalls, “Early this year Linda came with me to interview the homeless in the lake bottom in Lake Elsinore. We were assisting the county with a count of the homeless and the effort required a police escort. The two of us conducted interviews of about 40 people that day.
“During one interview of a group, we both noticed that the sheriffs were getting closer and closer to us. When Linda finished her interview, we saw one of the men running through the brush with all but one of the sheriffs hot on the trail after him. Dust was flying, and branches were breaking. There was a fight in the brush and the man, who we then discovered was an escaped violent felon, ended up in handcuffs.
“I looked at Linda and she broke out in song: ‘Bad Boys, Bad Boys.’ She just smiled and said we should be on the show ‘Cops.’ Without hesitation, she continued with me and the remaining sheriffs conducting another two hours of interviews.”
Currently, Helping Hands Group members are working with 17 active requests, but Bob can receive up to 10 new requests a week. Requests come via churches and individuals; however, Helping Hands, while being faith-based, is not associated with any specific church or organization.
At this time, Helping Hands is totally self-funded; but Bob would welcome any donations from individuals or groups who wish to give him the ability to meet the needs of more hurting individuals.
Bob Sasser is truly an “Unsung Hero” as he unselfishly leads his team to fulfill their mission, ”to bring people that care together with people in need.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or donating funds to help meet the many needs of the disabled, elderly, homeless, abused and low income individuals that live in our area, please refer to the Helping Hands Group web page at helpinghandsgroup.us