appalachian group distributed three times the normal amount of food last week because of COVID-19 related layoffs
Note: This is the first installment in a series on the Coronavirus pandemic.
LENOIR, N.C. — Yokefellow of Caldwell County, a faith-based ministry serving this Appalachian community in Western North Carolina since 1969, last week distributed three times the amount of food it normally does in a week because of COVID-19 related layoffs, says Director Sharon Harmon.
Yokefellow — with help from community partners and careful collaboration with those working with vulnerable populations — provided food to more than 900 households. Normally, the ministry would provide food for 300 to 350 households, shares Harmon. As a result, the ministry is in need of significantly more contributions in food and cash than it is presently receiving.
Harmon shares that the work was done in just 22 hours, as Yokefellow is open five-and-a-half hours a day four days a week. That changed this week, with hours expanded for providing food assistance to 9 a.m. — 3:30 p.m. daily.
About 200 of the meals were delivered in one manner or another; 700 were provided at Yokefellow’s new location at 202 Harper Ave. To meet the demand, they needed to be creative, Harmon says. ““Our mobile food pantry functions took place last week but in a somewhat modified fashion. We sent our senior mobile pantry a week early to Koinonia Apartments.” It has a vulnerable population and is “on complete lockdown,” observes Harmon. “We took it there, left them at the door and their staff took it in.” The same was done at Arbor Glen Apartments in Lenoir. They also provide food to two apartment complexes owned by the Lenoir Housing Authority, whose employees picked up the food and distributed it. Additionally, members of the Kings Creek Volunteer Fire Department picked up bags of food as well as frozen food and took them back to Kings Creek where area residents picked the food up.
Each bag of food includes canned soup and crackers; spaghetti sauce and pasta; frozen soup, a frozen meal with two vegetables; and recipes and ingredients for corn chowder and chicken pie. Families with children also get supplemental bags “with food that children enjoy” shares Harmon. That includes Spaghettios, macaroni and cheese, cereal and Ramen noodles.
Consequently, says Harmon, “We need donations of all of those items. We are not able to buy bulk from our wholesale food suppliers.” She adds, “Of course nobody knows how long this will last. We’ll be here as long as the staff is healthy. “ She says safety measures are a top priority. “We have barriers and other safety measures. Social distancing is being strictly enforced.”
Indeed, other operations are being affected by the pandemic, Harmon says. “It’s having an impact on Yokefellow as a whole. We just opened this building on January 31. We got our Thrift Store up and going. Now, we’ve shut down the store.” She continues, “Also under the umbrella of Yokefellow is LEOS, our shelter in Lenoir. It’s full. And, we depend upon volunteers to run it, but understandably, 99 percent of them have decided to stay away.” As a result, she’s had to pay staff and overtime, causing Yokefellow’s budgeted payroll to increase. She says that everyone at the shelter is isolated and staff are taking temperatures of those there every day. “So far,” shares Harmon, “everyone’s healthy.”
She states candidly, “We need food. We need funds.” However, donations can’t be taken at the temporarily closed Thrift Store. So, donations can be dropped off at the donation door at Yokefellow, can be made online at www.venmo.com and donate following the prompts on the page. The user ID is FoodPantry Yokefellow-1 says Harmon. Donations can also be made via mail to P.O. Box 2422, Lenoir, NC, 28645.
According to Harmon, “Yokefellow’s primary purpose is to serve God by giving service to human needs in our community. We are a crisis ministry assisting people in immediate need of food, clothing, shelter and/or financial assistance. Financial assistance could include: rent, utilities, medicine, household or other emergency needs.”
If you have questions about how to help with these needs, you can call (828) 754-8088 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/yokefellowofcaldwellco/.