GLENOLDEN Jane Pepe’s life was changed forever on October 5, 2020. Harry Pepe, her husband of 23 years committed suicide.
Last year, while trying to come to terms with the loss of the love of her life and the tragedy of his untimely death, grieving wife Harry founded Delins to Help and Heal, a non-profit community organization, aimed at ending the stigma of mental illness and suicide, and to help Delaware County residents affected by suicide. Headquartered at First Presbyterian Church in Glenolden, 2S Chester Pike, Harry’s Hands serves as a safe haven for anyone at risk of suicide and for family members and friends left to navigate life after a loved one died by suicide.
The organization not only includes support groups, but also helps spouses, children, and families affected by suicide and mental illness with food, clothing, necessities, and resources, always a sympathetic and caring ear. Harry’s Hands also advocates for mental health and serves as a voice for it in the community.
“People with a mental disorder have difficulty keeping up with the basic necessities of life. Pep explained that they are embarrassed to seek help because of the stigma surrounding them. “Harry’s hand wants to work towards ending stigma. Our job is to help spouse, children and families directly affected by suicide and mental illness. We provide assistance with food, clothing, resources and will even pay for treatment if needed – whatever it takes to save anyone’s life.”
Harry Babe had a passion for motorcycles and cars. According to his family and friends, he was a brilliant mechanic with an unparalleled talent for repairing things with his own hands. In June 2019, Harry had a horrific motorcycle accident that caused a massive brain hemorrhage that resulted in the loss of several body functions and triggered a bout of bipolar depression.
According to Jin, “He fought like hell every day to overcome this. The medicines were no longer effective, and in the end, his injuries and his mind took over.”
While she was still reeling from her husband’s death, as well as trying to be there for their three children, aged 19, 23 and 20, and four grandchildren, Jane Babe almost immediately started thinking “what if.” She wondered if there was more help for her husband, a place he could talk to, get support, and share his suicidal thoughts, and what if there was a place to go with people who really understood what she and her family were dealing with in the aftermath of suicide.
Never sit back and just think, Jane, a resident of the Holmes section of Ridley Township, has assembled her first support group and has been sharing ideas and resources by November. Harry’s hands on helping and healing have not stopped growing and expanding his ways of being in the community since then. Babe, who quit her job as a home healthcare nurse during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, has turned all her attention to
Harry’s hand, which she said was very therapeutic for her and her family.
“I was struck by the sheer need there,” Pep shared. “Word is definitely spreading that we are here. We want to offer help to anyone who is experiencing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, grief, or any kind of mental health issue.”
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit has a few dedicated volunteers, as well as a board of directors that includes Jane as chair, Sam Babe’s daughter as vice president, Lorna Lavie as secretary, and her son-in-law Brianna Pape as fundraising coordinator, Bob Goff as meeting coordinator, Becky Crawford As store coordinator, sons Edward and Eric Pep, son-in-law of John Toy, and several others.
Harry’s Hands No Commitment monthly peer support group, for anyone over the age of 18, meets on the third Wednesday of every month. The next meeting will be from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 15th.
“People come to our peer support group for different reasons and from all walks of life,” Pep said. “People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, family members and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide, people who struggle with anxiety or depression in their daily lives and even vets with PTSD. We have a mix of people, but we are all there to support and help each other Some. People can talk or not, it’s up to them, though mostly everyone is involved.”
Peer support is about conversation, dialogue, and mutual understanding. There is comfort in knowing that someone else has gone through the same struggles. A peer support group can offer others strategies for managing mental health, honest and authentic shared experiences, coping skills to reduce stress and sharing of resources. The group can also reduce a person’s isolation by offering personal contact, as well as sharing information about how to reach professionals for help.
“We’re here to provide support and comfort to anyone who comes through the door,” Pep explained. “We want to let every participant know they are not alone and help make their journey a little easier. Mental health is just as important as physical health.”
“We’re not here to solve everyone’s problems,” Daughter Sam interjected. “We just want people to come together to bounce ideas off each other, share resources, and know they are not alone. We want community members to know we are here with a shoulder to lean on.”
When Pep and her board began reaching out to others in the community, they quickly realized how many of those they met were struggling to make ends meet and, as a result, insecure about food and clothing.
As a result, they have started at Harry’s Hands Food Pantry to distribute groceries, baby items, hygiene supplies, and even pet food, to those in need, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 6-8 p.m. on Mondays. The pantry initially started in Babes’ basement, and is now more spacious after moving to First Presbyterian Church in Glenolden last August.
Those in need who want to shop at the store must be Delaware County residents. Harry’s Hands pantry currently serves about 30-50 people per week.
The group also provides clothes for those in need. Gently new and used clothes, all clean and orderly to browse in the church, are distributed during the same days and hours as the pantry. The distribution of clothes at the church began in September.
Harry’s Hands to Help and Heal accepts food and clothing donations during the same distribution hours.
Pep said the team of volunteers at Harry’s Hands to Help and Heal want to empower and be there for those who need help. Pep explained that one of the mottos of Harry’s Help and Healing Organization is “Together we can end stigma: Asking for help is the first step.”
Their awareness initiative is one of their most important. They want to connect people with the right resources to get the help they need.
“There are all kinds of help available, but it’s often hard to find,” Bibb explained. “A person who is depressed, or who is just struggling to get through their day, will not have the energy or personal strength to find help or resources on their own. We are open to anyone in need.”
After a family member committed suicide, Harry’s Hands provides support to survivors in several ways, including a food train for at least two weeks.
“After Harry died, we wouldn’t have eaten if people hadn’t sent us food,” Pip remembers shaking her head at the sad memory. “We weren’t able to work, but on our own we were making a meal.”
Harry’s Hands also advocates for needed changes to mental health laws. Its members recently participated in the Mental Health Fair hosted by Representative Jane O’Mara in September, as well as the annual Be Kind To Your Mind race event at Mary Place in Havertown.
“Poor mental health leads to suicide,” Pep said. “My husband was bipolar. If we are going to try to prevent suicide, we have to end the stigma and be more open about mental health.”
The volunteers at Harry’s Hands to Help and Heal take their loving, compassionate service on the road several times each month. The group stops at NA and AA meetings and recovery homes in the area, as well as walks around 69th Street in Upper Darby and the Kensington area of Philadelphia, to distribute food, hygiene supplies, gloves, coats, and hats to those who need them.
“Addiction and mental health go hand-in-hand, you know,” Pep says wistfully.
The local organization does a lot of outreach, as well as raising funds to keep everything flowing. Pep says they are very grateful to the 52 business sponsors and individual donors from the local community, who have helped in many ways in the past year.
Last spring, the group ran an Easter egg hunt to raise awareness of their group. More than 300 families came, and it looks like the group really got started after that, Pep said. In the fall, the group held a successful car and bike show at Glen Mills School with the support of 30 community sponsors. The organization has also given away free children’s coats of warm outerwear, hats, and mittens, every Saturday in November.
Harry’s hand is now getting ready for the holidays. The nonprofit collects toys for 250 children, in addition to serving as a delivery site for US Marines Toys For Tots.
Harry’s Hands to Hill and Healing will be holding Christmas Bazaar, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 4, at First Presbyterian Church in Glenolden. The event will include food, vendors, basket raffles, vendors, children’s games, face painting, visits with Santa, and more. Most importantly, Harry’s Hands To Help and Heal hopes to showcase their organization during the event, highlighting mental health and suicide awareness, so the community knows that help nearby is readily available and accessible, anytime it is needed..
For more information, visit https://harryshands.com, call 610-724-4230, email firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out through the “Harry’s Hands to Help and Heal” Facebook page.