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Snow affects needy

Thursday, February 13, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Preparing for a storm is commonplace for many people, but what about those who rely on food banks or other community service agencies for help filling the most basic needs?

“That’s a hard question,” said Lt. Shauntrice Williams of the Salvation Army.

The answer depends on whether shelter or food is needed, she said. For shelter information, Williams suggested contacting the city of Martinsville.

If area residents need food, “as long as we can get to the office, we will be open. If we can get here, we will be a resource” to people in need, Williams said.

But this time of year, that depends on the weather.

Generally, the Salvation Army operates on the same schedule as local schools, Williams said. That means if schools are closed, the agency likely also will be closed because the weather is considered too treacherous for its employees and volunteers to be out.

When the “first warning about winter storm” was issued last week, “we did see an influx of people coming in to get food from us. We actually ran out of our food bags because of it,” Williams said. “In two days, we handed out about 40 bags of food. That’s a lot.”

Hopefully, that means many of the Salvation Army’s clients are prepared for winter weather, she added.

Also, “we did have additional people to come out for our feeding program on Monday,” Williams said. “Generally, a Monday in February attracts 15 to 17 people, and we had about 30 show up.”

The free meals are held weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she said. They would be canceled and the agency would be closed if snow accumulates.

Michael Harrison, lead pastor at the Community Fellowship, said he and his congregation are preparing for the aftermath of the expected storm.

He noted that through its outreach ministries, the church had helped 15 to 20 additional clients by Tuesday.

“Typically, we see a great increase (in need) right after the event, because most people have depleted their resources,” Harrison said.

Travis Adkins, executive director of the Community Storehouse, said that if the storm hits as predicted, his agency likely will be forced to cancel its food distribution scheduled for today.

Normally when that happens, Adkins said, clients call and “we get like a million voicemails.” The tone of their voices is desperate, he said.

If a person is out of necessities before the storm hits, he or she likely will remain without those items until the next food distribution, Adkins said. That is because the storehouse lacks the volunteers needed to reschedule and hold a distribution early.

And while those who miss a distribution will get double the amount of food the following month, “it’s sad,” Adkins said.

In January, 715 families were served through the food bank, he said. Another 519 youngsters are enrolled in the agency’s backpack program, Adkins said of a service that provides food on weekends and holidays to city and county students in need.

Participants in that program are students who “rely on free breakfast and lunch at school for their main meals,” Adkins said. Students must be referred by a teacher, school counselor or school nurse, he added.

“When you see the stories on the referrals that teachers write, it shows you the truth of what children in our neighborhoods go through,” he said.

If there is enough notice in advance of a winter storm, “we try to get the backpacks out early” so that students will have something to eat, Adkins said.

However, students are especially affected by storms and school closings because they also do not get their main meals at school, Adkins said. “They are double affected because they are double going without,” he added.


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