By Taylor Boyd
Personnel with the Patrick County Food Bank celebrated the agency’s accomplishments and honored volunteers at an Oct. 21 luncheon.
Denise Clark, office manager, said personnel and board members prepared the food for the luncheon, and invited volunteers “to come and eat. We wanted to do something to boost group morale.”
That is because this has been a banner year for the agency that not only has contended with more need during the pandemic, but also renovation projects, said Joe Lanham, director.
“We finished parts of construction on our building in mid-August to meet United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations. We also wanted to say thank you to our volunteers who have worked hard during the pandemic,” Lanham said.
“Our core team is primarily the elderly,” Lanham said, adding some are able to do only so much due to their ages. “Our oldest volunteer, Dudley Clark, is 93 years-old and has been here since the food bank started about 15 years ago.”
Lanham said he expects the agency and its’ volunteers to work harder to serve more clients in the upcoming months.
“We have our regular clients, but there’s been a lot of new people coming to get boxes since the pandemic began. People are struggling. There’s been no stimulus package and the holiday season is coming up,” he said, adding the food bank generally gives $3,000 worth of turkey and ham in Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes.
“The food bank might have to increase the amount this year,” he said, adding that one of the group’s goals in its ‘Vision for the Future’ is recruiting new members to help pack and distribute food boxes.
“We have a core team of 25 people and several other volunteers, but we need more people,” he said.
The agency’s shift to a drive-thru system could also account for the clientele increase, according to April Pendleton, communication coordinator.
With this system clients do not need to enter the building to get their food boxes, “instead they just drive around, we check them in our system, put the boxes in their car, and they leave. It’s much easier and safer, especially during bad weather” Pendleton said, adding that many don’t ask for help because they feel embarrassed about needing it.
“People have their pride,” she said, and noted that some people travel out of their area to get their boxes and avoid seeing anyone they know.
Ellen Fulcher, outreach director, said the agency also is accepting donations to help with the increase in need.
“One of my daughters gave me a $1,000 donation” for the agency “in memory of her father. I think giving donations in memory of someone, especially around the holidays, is a wonderful way to honor the memory of your loved ones,” Fulcher said.
The food bank also receives donations from several churches in the county, she said, adding “the churches give us some of the money that was donated to them to help us feed more people.”
Clark said the food bank distributed 252 boxes of food and served 222 people the day of the luncheon. She said the food bank fed 513 people for the month of October, an increase from the 250 to 300 in previous months.
Boxes are distributed the third Wednesday of each month, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Ararat location is only open from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the Meadows of Dan location is open only from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Starting in January 2021, the agency will begin distributing boxes on the second Wednesday of each month at the same locations and times.
To donate, mail financial contributions to Patrick County Food Bank, P.O. Box 1304, Stuart, Va., 24171.
For more information or to volunteer, call (276) 694-6300 and leave a message or contact the agency via its social media page at Facebook.com/PatrickCoFoodBank/.