Lynchburg food banks continue to serve amidst COVID-19

Lynchburg area food banks and shelters are keeping their doors open and serving the community despite several restrictions to keep food distribution sanitized and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lynchburg Salvation Army, The Lighthouse Community Center and The Daily Bread are all playing their part in helping those struggling in the community. The three organizations are working together to make sure anyone in need is fed and housed.

These organizations, in addition to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and others alike in the area, are staying open for the same reason as there are people in need, and they are determined to help.

The director of development at the Lynchburg Salvation Army, Tammy Shank, said the various shelters are in constant communication.

“We’re meeting by conference call on a regular basis — making sure we’re sharing data, making sure we’re in touch with the health department about things,” Shank said. “We sort of planned for this early and started making decisions early and started to adjust our programming and so forth.”

The co-founder and executive director of The Lighthouse Community Center, Martha Brown, thanks God for the closeness the three organizations now share.

“We’re letting each other know what is coming in and what we can divide among one another,” Brown said. “We have become incredibly close and I just love that the Lord has sheltered us together so that we recognize that this is about sharing and becoming one, and we’re very grateful for one another’s work.”

Centers and food banks are the source of meals for many in the community who would be left hungry without the meals provided.

Brown said the services her organization provides are necessary to the well-being of the community.

“We are essential to providing nutritional value to the community and those that rely on a hot meal every single day for those that either don’t have the ability to provide a meal for themselves or the facilities to do it,” Brown said. “They really need us every day.”

As the demand increases for housing and food services, the need for volunteers has also increased. 

Recently the Salvation Army lost dinner volunteers, so volunteers from The Lighthouse Community Center came after work to help serve meals. 

Media and community relations manager of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Abena Trice said as some volunteers have had to step back for health reasons, it is important for those who can help do so. 

“I know Liberty University has had a great relationship (with us) and vice versa so far, with students especially,” Trice said. “There’s a need for healthy individuals who are able and low risk. Individuals are welcome to come to our website and get involved and see what the volunteers are doing near them and sign up.”

Health and safety remain paramount at these shelters as they work to feed the community while making sure to abide by CDC guidelines.

“We do need volunteers,” Brown said. “It’s just challenging because we need to make certain that we have volunteers that have not been to a place that is a (coronavirus) hot spot or potentially have been exposed, so we’re trying our best to protect the value of those volunteers that we do have.”

To continually make sure everyone is safe, the Lighthouse Community Center is taking temperatures of their employees, volunteers and visitors regularly throughout the day.

“We just want to make sure that we’re leaving here and all going home feeling just as healthy as we did when we walked in,” Brown said. 

They are accepting donations and are in need of dishwashing soap, to-go containers, resealable bags and aluminum foil trays.

Cash donations are also accepted to help the center purchase discounted food. In addition, donors can contribute with their cooking abilities and drop off pre-made food. 

Trice said they are re-working their volunteer shifts to maintain safe social distancing and accommodate the rule against gatherings of more than 10 people . Though they have had many volunteers step up to help, they are still requesting more help as the unemployment rates rise.

“Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, and when they do, these are the individuals that we are here for,” Trice said. “We want them to come to us because we are here to help.”

Brittany Slaughter is a News reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter @BSlaughterReal

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