ROCKSPRINGS — A total of 200 families were supplied with canned soups, chili, and beans; pasta, dried legumes, and other staples at a drive through distribution held at the Meigs County Fairgrounds on Tuesday.
The distribution was sponsored by Indivisible Appalachian Ohio (IAO), an area non-profit social welfare organization that regularly sponsors the SE Ohio Foodbank’s mobile food pantry in Meigs and Vinton Counties.
In addition to financial sponsorship of the mobile pantry, IAO also provides logistics and volunteer services to carry out the large operations. Tuesday’s distribution was especially labor intensive due to protocol the organization and the SE Ohio Foodbank put in place to protect recipients and volunteers from exposure to the pandemic coronavirus. Assisting IAO was a group of volunteers from WOUB Center for Public Media through their Community Give Back program.
The volunteers assisted the families with many needs during the event, including vehicle issues and the loading of food into cars.
WOUB volunteers assisted IAO in loading cars as well as registering the 200 families using a strict protocol set in place by IAO and the SE Ohio foodbank to limit contact between volunteers and drivers.
“We had a very well thought-out system,” said IAO President Liz Shaw. “We used printed signs that were held up to drivers telling them to keep their windows rolled up. Once we were sure they understood that, we approached the vehicle and held up signs asking them to hold their proof of residency envelope up to the window so our volunteers could take down their information. It worked beautifully, and there was never any direct contact with anyone.”
Cheri Russo, WOUB Community Engagement Manager recruited the WOUB volunteers and stated, “I’m grateful we were able to help organizations like this during this public health emergency. This was a wonderful, safe way to make sure we are taking care of each other.”
WOUB volunteer Evan Shaw, a Meigs County native and producer of the WOUB Our Town documentary series that featured Pomeroy in 2015, had perhaps the most difficult volunteer assignment of all — counting the families in line, and then putting up the barricade and sign stating there was no more food.
“I’m really happy that 200 of my friends and neighbors in Meigs County now have enough nutritious food to last them for two weeks, but I have to say it was like a punch in the gut to turn people away when I had to put that sign out. My prayer is that local agencies will be fully supported by the local, state, and federal governments so that Appalachian Ohioans will get the help they desperately need right now.”
The distribution took several hours to complete, and all volunteers — ranging in ages from 15 to 70 — were cold and tired, but very happy that they were able to help their neighbors in need.
“I want to especially thank our volunteers, the SE Ohio Foodbank, and the Sheriff’s Department for making this possible. We have done many distributions, but none that presented the challenges this one did. Hopefully we kept smiles on our faces, and offered encouragement to those we served,” said Shaw.
A producer working on an assignment with the PBS news show Frontline was on the site filming the distribution as part of an upcoming piece in April about the coronavirus and its impact on low income families. More details forthcoming on the air date.
The mission of Indivisible Appalachian Ohio is to serve and advocate for the well being of Appalachian Ohio communities.
Information provided by Liz Shaw, Indivisible Appalachian Ohio.