MIDLOTHIAN — Commemorating a heritage of compassion and care, Midlothian’s Manna House celebrated a milestone marker of excellence in community service. The non-profit gathered leaders from around the county to commemorate its 25th anniversary on Sept. 7.

“Manna House has a lot of people with big hearts that love it and are apart of it,” began Sissy Franklin, Executive Director of Manna House. “I can’t imagine having this job in any other city, just because of the love you feel here in Midlothian.”

As cheers and compliments surfaced throughout the chatter of the Midlothian Conference Center’s ballroom, Manna House was deeply cherished and recognized for its selfless service throughout the course of the evening.

“Nothing that happens in this community as far as good things like that, it was overwhelming for sure,” Franklin expressed seeing the packed facility.

“And every day I'm thinking, ‘I’m doing the right thing, and this is exactly what I’m called to do.’ But when you see that kind of support from your neighbors and knowing people support you in that kind of way, it’s definitely overwhelming, and you feel so much of the love,” she included.

What began as an eighth-grade school project in 1992 with teacher Paige Spitler, Manna House was conceived after identifying a simple community need and filling it.

“We were the middle school class that the principal came to our door and planted this idea to myself and to the students, and I said, ‘Thank you for your idea but why do you want us, our class to do this project,’” Spitler recalled the moment to the audience.

“And if I remember correctly he said ‘You’re an army.’ And I had no idea what he meant but now I look back on it, and we were,” she smiled. “We had 31 students, we had their parents, we had the school board’s permission, and we had a wonderful administrator, Frank Seal, and our superintendent. So these are just some of the people who were behind our program.”

What grew from a class exercise of feeding and clothing those in need within the community, soon gave a home to one of the most adored nonprofits in Midlothian that also extends a hand to counseling, special projects, and education.

“When you’re teaching children you're always hoping that it will be something that lasts a long period of time and possibly a lifetime,” Spitler acknowledged. “And I feel like my students did that, and have become productive citizens, and I hope sometime in their life they can come back and see what Manna House has become.”

As Mayor Bill Houston lead the prayer for the banquet’s meal and the audience took their seats, Justin Coffman, A Manna House board member, and community Chaplin told of the impact the nonprofit has had this year.

“We’ve had $30,000 in prescription needs met, over $85,000 in pantry food needs met, nearly $100,000 of rental systems,” Coffman listed. “Nearly $135,000 in other utilities, over $30,000 in paid scholarships, $30,000 to other nonprofits because we don’t believe in recreating the wheel if someone else is already doing it, $130,000 in other special projects like a prosthetic arm or two prosthetic eyes, and so much more.”

“Biblically, manna dates back to a bunch of Israelites fleeing from a bunch of really angry Egyptians, and manna was God’s supernatural provision to meet their needs,” he related. “Manna House is God’s supernatural provision to meet the needs of this community.”

As testimonies were told of timely provisional needs met and the countless volunteers recognized for their outstanding service, Franklin gave special recognition to a key influence of Manna House in memory of former volunteer, Chick Ray.

Through the ‘Heart of Manna House’ award, formed in Mr. Chick’s honor was given to former Manna House board member, Bill Brashears as he was met with applause and tears.

“Bill has been apart of my life just as much as Mr. Chick. Bill was on the board, and Mr. Chick was in the pits with us doing the serving,” Franklin described. “So the response for the Chick Ray ‘Heart of Manna House’ award was absolutely special to me.”

Sticking around ever since he mowed the lawn of the old location of Manna House on Highway 287 in its early beginnings, Franklin goes on to say that Mr. Chick recently passed away this year, inspiring the 2017 award.

“Mr. Chick was so important to me and this whole ministry as a vital part, and to see the whole room was behind it, backed it, and agreed with our selection meant a lot,” Franklin admitted.

“We thought it was so important to honor his memory and his heart because he had the heart the size of Texas and loved what he did, loved God, and love people,” she added.

As the night came to a close, Franklin thanked the community and those in attendance for their past support and encouraged them with future endeavors.

“We are in such need of a larger place to grow our programs further. I mean, the sky is the limit and there’s nothing I’m afraid to jump in the middle of and see if there’s not some way we can help out a situation,” Franklin chuckled.

“But we are so thankful for this community, and we’re looking forward to being a big part of it in the next 25 years to come,” she concluded.

To connect with Manna House, visit mannahousemidlothian.org or call (972)-775-1800.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450