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 (providing enough food each week for 10,000 meals). 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.
Here are updates from our Director Dick Larson:
September 3, 2020
It’s hard to believe it’s September already. Happy Labor Day! I had thought to let you know where things stand at FAF, roughly six months into COVID-19. FAF is doing very well. We’ve adapted to “Drive-Thru Distributions”, which I anticipate continuing until community-wide vaccinations are available. I can’t imagine that being before next Spring. That does mean we’ll have some cold folks in the parking lot this Winter. Imagine, though, how cold it will be in an unheated, leaky house with no food. We’ll be fine. We’re currently serving anywhere from 100 to 150 families a week, with wild fluctuations. With the uncertainty surrounding any possible additional government assistance, we expect to stay quite busy, at least for the rest of the year. We are now distributing a total of approximately 55,000 pounds of food a month!
Our Community Pantries are doing very well. We now have six, and they’re all being utilized. We’re stocking them roughly twice a week and are going through around 5,000 pounds of food a month. I expect that figure to double over the next year.
The Community Markets, our partnership with Avery County Schools and MANNA, are going very well. We’re serving 160-175 families a month, with nearly 13,000 pounds of food.
School has restarted, and, therefore, our backpack and in-school pantries are getting underway. We currently have 117 children signed up, and anticipate more to come. We are concerned about the children not in school, and their dietary needs. We’re looking into delivering food to some of them, as well as some of our clients who can’t get to our center. In that vein, we have applied for a grant to help us buy a van for food transportation. If we get that, we’ll be looking for folks who might be interested in helping with our mobile services.
Finally, we haven’t given up on our ideas for a Community Health Initiative, to help some of our sickest, neediest people improve their diets, improve their health and well-being while reducing the cost of their health care. We can’t do much with that until the COVID restrictions are lifted, but we have the space. It is slowly being renovated. Hopefully by next year we’ll be ready to go.
All of this is, of course, only possible because of you. Our volunteers have been incredibly faithful. Our donors continue to be generous in their support, giving us confidence that, whatever happens, we can help those who come to our doors. MANNA has had its share of struggles, but has remained steadfast in providing ever-more food. Though the selection has sometimes been limited, we have never been without. Thanks be to God, and all of you.
July 15, 2020
As most of you undoubtedly know, the number of COVID-19 cases in Avery County continues to grow. So far, we’ve had no cases among our volunteer family. Jo-Ann and I have been in discussion with the Avery County Health Department, and they are happy with all of the measures we are taking. They do feel, however, that we should be screening for symptoms and measuring temperatures each time we gather. This will put us in line with many large employers, as well as our schools, when they open this Fall. We’ve ordered an infra-red thermometer, and will begin this program as soon as it arrives. That may be as soon as this Friday (Jul 17). Chris Zimmer has been kind enough to volunteer to do this for us.
Schools will be reopening in some fashion on August 17. At that time we will resume providing backpacks and stocking in-school pantries. In the mean-time we will continue our home deliveries to ~ 75 students every Thursday. Our partners from the First Things Foundation will be doing this through July. We are going to need help with the two deliveries in August (Aug 6 & 13). If there are any of you who might be able to help with this, please let us know. We’ll try to arrange for you to accompany the FTF crew during one of their July deliveries, so that you can learn the routes and drop-off points.
As always, thank you so much for your incredibly positive help, support and flexibility. Together we are getting this done. We are the hands of God.
June 28, 2020
Things remain steady at FAF, though Avery County continues to report a slowly increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Our client volume fluctuates week to week. I anticipate we’ll probably see a further uptick later this summer with the rising number of cases and the end of some of the federal stimulus funds. Starting this coming month (July 2020), we will be changing our distribution hours. We will continue to distribute each of the first four Fridays of each month. We will be starting at 9:30 AM, and going until 11:30. We will resume at 1 PM and be open until 3 PM. With all of our pre-packing, we simply don’t need so much time to do the distributions. This will also mean less time for our volunteers to be standing outside during inclement weather. Thanks to all of you for your phenomenal support. We are, indeed, blessed. In our best moments we are instruments of God’s peace and love.
May 24, 2020
Just a brief update to let you know that all goes well with FAF. Our distributions are going so smoothly that we’re talking about shortening some of the hours. I’ll let you know when anything is decided, but we have a lot of idle time, and I don’t want to waste volunteer efforts. Please remember that this Friday (May 29) is the fifth Friday in May, and we, therefore, will not have a distribution. We will be receiving a food delivery from MANNA on Thursday (May 28), but even that will be shortened somewhat, as we won’t have to do so much packing.
We will be partnering with our friends at the Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Crossnore, to host our sixth Community Pantry, probably within the next two weeks. We will be using a storage building in their parking lot until we can get our own building built, in conjunction with the high school carpentry class, taught by Nick Daniels. We are excited to make new friends and begin new initiatives.
As we move through the phases of reopening our economy, we will remain careful to protect both our volunteers and our clients. At this point I don’t see resuming Client Choice until a vaccine is available. Despite its drawbacks, our current system is efficient, effective and relatively safe. We are blessed to be able to continue to work, laugh and serve together. Thanks be to God.
May 17, 2020
I pray that each of you is safe and well. As you may know, so far Avery County has still not recorded a confirmed case of COVID-19. There is a lot of discussion about working through the Governor’s stages of re-opening public facilities. I think FAF should err on the side of caution. Our “Drive-Thru” Distributions are going very well. Though the number of clients we serve on any given Friday varies, I think we would be stressed to accommodate them all right now, if we returned to Client Choice. We certainly plan to do that, but, for the time being, we will continue with the drive-thru, trying to protect both our clients and our volunteers. That being said, I expect that Carolina Barbeque will reopen for on-site dining this coming Friday (May 22). For those of you who will be helping with our distribution that day, please park in the old Lowe’s Grocery Store parking lot. We’ll try to protect as many parking spaces as we can for our business neighbors.
We are working on arrangements to deliver food to school children and their families who are in need, over the Summer. We have been partnering with Avery County Schools to deliver food weekly, in place of the backpack program. The buses will cease to operate at the end of scheduled school year. We are looking to our friends in the First Things Foundation to help with transportation and delivery. Our partners at the Y have offered the use of one of their vans and a driver. We will be delivering meals prepared by the ACS kitchen staff, as well as boxes of food we will receive from MANNA, on a weekly basis. Please welcome Eleanor Burch, who has recently joined our FTF team.
Last Thursday our Community Market, a partnership among FAF, MANNA and Avery County Schools, served nearly 230 families. One of our Board members, Tammy Woodie, coordinates this entire project. We have people from all parts of Avery County pitching in to help. It’s a wonderful, collaborative effort, and very well received. Prior to March we were serving just 75 families a month!
We are about to set up our sixth Community Pantry, in Crossnore. I will be meeting with the session of the Fellowship Presbyterian Church this coming Wednesday evening to discuss arrangements. Their pastor, Lonnie Barnes, contacted me and indicated they would love to host this outreach project in partnership with us. How good it is to have friends!
All in all, we’re doing all right. We have food. We have wonderful volunteers, and we’ve had people and organizations step up to help us with funding. Thanks be to God and to all of you.
April 26, 2020
I hope you are all safe and well. For most of us these times are about keeping the ship afloat and moving forward, and that is certainly true at FAF. So far, we are holding up, thanks to our fantastic volunteers, generous donors and our wonderful partners at MANNA. Since most of our routines have changed, I thought it might be helpful to review what we are doing, and what help may be needed.
We continue to receive food on Thursday mornings, starting at 9:30. The pallets are broken down and food placed on shelves. At the same time we are packing produce into bags and non-perishable food into boxes. We can always use volunteers for these packing tasks, and some of you come in around 11:30 just to do that. On Fridays, during our distributions, we don’t, at present, have the client choice roles. Instead we have people inside packing bags and boxes, people in the Annex transcribing info onto TEFAP forms and people outside directing traffic, checking clients in and loading cars. We can always use help with any of these tasks. Please sign up online, if you are able to help.
On Monday mornings, since the schools are closed, we don’t deliver backpacks. Instead the school buses come by FAF, and we load them with Family Food Boxes and Produce, which we get from MANNA. We have help from our school counselors, their families and some of our volunteers. At present we have all the help we need for this. When the schools reopen, probably in the Fall, we will go back to delivering backpacks.
We have people restocking our five Community Pantries daily (Kent Willard and Juliana and Iain Thorp), and we are beginning plans to add an additional pantry in Crossnore. These pantries, quite predictably, are seeing much more use now.
Finally, we are thrilled to welcome the members of the First Things Foundation, an international non-profit, dedicated to helping people in indigent areas improve their lives. They will be organizing a system to deliver food and medicines to people in need. They have come from around the world to help, and we are blessed to have them. Many of you have met Daniel Padrnos, as well as Juliana and Iain Thorp. Recent arrivals include Nick and Morgan Padrnos, Eileen Maiocco, Anna Cunningham and Austin Klise. As soon as their self-isolation period is over, they will be joining our efforts as volunteers, as well as working on deliveries. If you know of young people who might like to join them, please let us know and we’ll pass along their names.
If you have any reusable grocery bags you can do without, please bring them in. Chris Zimmer has been putting together wonderful, welcome bags for new clients, but we’re now out of bags. Welcome bags and stuffed animals are great ways to make sometimes uncomfortable people feel loved.
We are richly blessed because of all of you. Please take care of yourselves and those you love. Godspeed, my friends.