Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Riverside's House of Help Is Closing; Friends Say Couple Has Aided over 100,000 People

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Riverside's House of Help Is Closing; Friends Say Couple Has Aided over 100,000 People

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

For almost 26 years, Charles and Ruth Allender helped the hungry.

Word got around the Riverside area that their small garage apartment at James and Rosselle streets was called Victory House and was the place to go if you needed something to eat or just a kind word.

With the help of a small band of volunteers, they also collected and redistributed food to groups of people in need, gave out holiday food boxes and crocheted afghans, bedspreads and other items to raise money.

The Allenders didn't have much. They came to Jacksonville in 1984 and for a time were hungry and homeless themselves before finding jobs and an apartment.

But they felt called to move from Maryland to Jacksonville to help people, Ruth Allender said. And that was that.

"God sent us here," she said.

But now they are closing up shop.

Both in bad health and living on Social Security benefits, the retirees - she's 73, he's 68 - are moving to Indiana to live with a daughter who can care for them.

"We are happy about what we've been able to do," said Charles. "We don't want to give it up, but we have to."

On Friday, the couple held a luncheon at their home to say goodbye to friends and supporters.

They are referring them and the people they helped to Pastor Joe Howell of Safe House of Jacksonville Outreach Ministry, which provides food and clothing to underprivileged families on the Westside.

"It's the end of an era," said Connie Pierce, an Allender daughter who lives in Lake City. "I am very proud of them."

At the dinner, the couple's teary-eyed army said their world would not be the same. They said they had forged strong bonds with the Allenders, who they figured must have helped more than 100,000 people over the years. …

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