In our efforts to help feed the hungry in Avery County (including Newland, Banner Elk, Crossnore, Elk Park, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain) during the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we are posting updates and resources here.
Feeding Avery Families will continue our services as long as we have food and volunteers. Starting March 13th, we switched from our “client selection” shopping on Fridays to giving pre-selected boxes of food, produce and meats. Clients, please come on Fridays as usual. Volunteers will direct you.
Also, our Community Pantries (photo above) will be monitored and stocked at these schools: Avery County High School, Newland Elementary, Riverside Elementary, Banner Elk Elementary, and Cranberry Middle/Freedom Trail Elementary. They are accessible 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
March 29, 2020, Update from Dick
I’m somewhat unsure about how to even begin this update. Most of you, I imagine, heard Dr. Anthony Fauci’s rather grim forecast today. Tony is a brilliant scientist and an honorable man. You also probably know that all of North Carolina is now in a “Stay in Place” order. So, where are we? We are an “Essential Service”. That means that our volunteers and clients can visit us to deal with the distribution of food. Thanks to Larry Zimmer, we now have a very official-looking document that provides us with proof that we are engaging in essential services. Get one from us at the center during any delivery or distribution. But that doesn’t deal with the frightening concerns everyone has, and which I fully understand. What are we, each of us, to do?
If you will indulge me, just a moment, I want to talk about the history of humanity and the Christian faith. During a similar, awful scourge of humanity, when the Bubonic (Black) Plague swept across Europe, everyone was terrified and overwhelmed. This included the governments. There was no cure, and there was no clearly defined treatment. They didn’t even understand how it was transmitted. Anything sound familiar? In the face of that incredibly unsettling uncertainty, however, one group stood out. Christian men and women went out into the streets, gathered up these pathetic, stricken victims, bathed their wounds, and provided sustenance. They provided palliative care, when nothing else was available. They often didn’t succeed in saving these unfortunate people, and sometimes succumbed to the disease themselves. The giants who have preceded us have left us an incredible legacy.
So, what are we to do? To start with, I am no all-knowing guy. I’m just an ordinary man. Given that, here are my thoughts. If you are terrified by this prospect; if you are immuno-compromised or have a chronic disease, stay home, and don’t feel guilty. If you want to keep trying to reach out, join us. Wash your hands (The recommendation is 20 seconds in warm, soapy water, – make it a slow count to thirty.). Wear gloves – We have them. Overcome your natural social graces, and stay away from your friends. Don’t shake their hands or hug them – I am nearly paralyzed by that idea! If you wish, wear a mask – We have them. Please, pray for all of us and all of our clients. We are a powerful praying block.
So, what are we actually doing? Many of you saw the numbers Larry sent out this week. We served 148 families, but we also gave out 30 emergency food boxes. My guess is that we will be serving over 200 families per week as we move forward. We will find the funds. MANNA has food. If some of you are willing to continue coming, we will continue to serve. I am looking to our friends who are school teachers, our partners at the “Y”, perhaps some of our students and young people, now out of work, many of whom have volunteered to help. We’re partnering with the First Things Foundation to look at ways that we might help by delivering food, medications and assistance to people who need it, and can’t get out.
We have no monopoly on productive ideas. If you have some, please share them. What I do know is that we have the most extraordinary support group in the world. It is very humbling for me to be able to marshal the force that you all represent. God bless you all. And thank you!
March 22, 2020, Update from Dick
The schools remain closed. Reopening date is uncertain, but I won’t be surprised if it isn’t until Fall. This week we served 161 client families on Friday and another 21 emergency food boxes during the week. This is 50% more than we were serving a month ago. I expect that to continue rising to probably twice what we were doing before the Coronavirus. At the Community Market on Thursday, instead of serving our normal 75 families, we served 245!
Here’s how things work now. Clients are registered while in their cars in the parking lot, and then have their food placed into the cars. We ask them not to get out of their cars, and they never enter the building. We are trying to avoid all physical contact, including the exchange of documents. With two check-in people, four loaders and a traffic controller, we have enough people. We have 2-3 people inside the Annex transcribing check-in information onto TEFAP forms and filing. This is very efficient and takes little time. It works because of all the prep work that has been and is being done by the people inside. While the distribution is going on, people inside are packing boxes and bags for next week’s distribution. Between outside and inside work, we are still utilizing 15-20 people for each session.
Now, to volunteers. Most of us are in the most vulnerable age demographic for this virus. We don’t want anyone to feel that they must come, if they are afraid to do so. Those of you with chronic illnesses, immune suppression or, certainly, acute illnesses should stay home. We’re going to keep looking for volunteers wherever we can. We may be able to find some younger people through the schools, the Y or elsewhere. We love having you there, but understand if you are feeling too anxious to continue. We will continue to take every reasonable precaution, such as wearing gloves, frequent hand-washing, social distancing, trying to avoid touching our faces, etc. MANNA continues to be able to provide food, while local grocery stores have very little left over. We are no longer able to order food from Food Lion.
I’m contacting funding organizations to work at filling the financial shortfall that will be inevitable from this. Folks, you are absolutely the best. Together, with God’s help, we will endure. Thanks be to God.
March 15, 2020 Update from Dick:
Things are moving rather quickly now, and will continue to accelerate. As I imagine most of you know, all North Carolina public schools will be closed for at least the next two weeks. This will almost surely last longer. That means that the backpack program is stopped, as are free and reduced breakfasts and lunches for the children.
Over the next two weeks Avery County Schools will be providing a drive-by grab and go lunch operation for all Avery County students. You may pick up a breakfast and lunch meal at Newland Elementary School from 10:30 to 1:30. We encourage all families to participate in this distribution effort.
Plans are being finalized for food distribution by yellow buses to begin Monday, March 16th. You can expect delivery at your child’s normal bus stop on a four hour delay. Please meet the bus at your child’s normal bus stop and pick up breakfast and lunch for your children.”
There will be a “Community Market” (previously known as “Pop-Up Pantries”) this Thursday from noon to 2 PM. Instead of being in the Rock Gym, it will take place in the Community Swimming Pool parking lot and will be organized as a drive-thru distribution, similar to FAF’s new system. I will be involved, but I don’t think we’ll need other volunteers.
So what’s ahead for FAF? We will continue to have our regular Friday distributions, albeit with our new “no contact, drive-thru” system. I anticipate we will be seeing many more people with lots of schedule disruptions. We’ll handle it. MANNA will switch from providing MANNA bags for backpacks to more of a family box. We will begin putting both MANNA’s food bags as well as those we pack into our Community Pantries. As such, we will continue to pack backpack bags as always. I expect these Community Pantries are going to see greatly increased traffic. We will probably have to check and stock them at least every other day.
Jo-Ann is going to be looking for some help on Thursday afternoons to pack food boxes for our Friday distributions. We will probably be packing produce and bread/dessert bags as well. Call if you can help!
In summary, we are going to continue distributing food as long as we have food and volunteers.
Note: For info about the RAM Food Pantry in Newland, call REACHING AVERY MINISTRY at 828-733-5127.
March 13, 2020 Update From Dick
I don’t think anyone could overstate what an incredible group of volunteers we have. Today we did a total pivot with our distribution system to ”contact-less check-in” and curbside loading. With no practice, you pulled it off like clockwork. Larry tells me that we served 138 families 174 boxes of food, and yet it seemed as if there were time to stand around. No grumbling, no disgruntlement, just collegial, amiable, collaborative interaction. We are incredibly fortunate. I’m guessing this may be the “new normal” for 2-3 months. Please continue to sign up online, though the specific tasks for which you sign up will probably not be what you actually end up doing when you arrive. We have tasks and a need for everyone. This Thursday we’ll be receiving around 16,000 pounds of food, and will need to pack around 100 boxes for Friday’s distribution. Life is sure good when you have friends.