OHIO VALLEY — In a time of communal struggle with the world facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission of helping others has changed quite a bit, but that hasn’t stopped those who believe in its importance.
While God’s Hands at Work, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Vinton and founded in April 2014, may not currently be taking household items such as linens or furniture to help those in need, it is focusing on providing food boxes and similar supplies to continue feeding and caring for families.
The 501(c)(3) and faith-based organization serves Gallia, Jackson, Vinton and Meigs counties in Ohio and Mason County in West Virginia. Its mission is to “love our neighbors as ourselves as we are commanded in God’s Word, by providing a ‘hand up’ when we see a need.” The organization is known for assisting area families struggling through economic hardships and tragedies such as fires or flooding.
“It has been very challenging, no doubt,” said God’s Hands at Work President Lisa Carroll. “Our volunteers have dropped off completely due to COVID. Currently, it’s just the four of our board members who are working.“
God’s Hands at Work Vice President Tammy Rote added that occasionally family members may be “drug along” to assist in the organization’s activities.
The nonprofit closed its 68 Keystone Road headquarters from March until June and currently is meeting with family representatives, one individual at a time, by appointment.
“We were doing emergency food boxes only,” said Carroll. “We’d go out to the center and prepare the boxes and when someone needed one we’d set it out on the porch and let them do a pickup. We did the same thing with our big pantry items like diapers and wipes and formula.”
Organization representatives say that God’s Hands’ food pantry took a “major hit” in the early stages of the pandemic’s push into the Ohio Valley.
“We went through eight and a half months worth of food in that first four weeks,” said Carroll. “Our pantry was almost completely empty.”
Rote estimated the center may have given out 80 to 120 food boxes for families in that time. As defined by Carroll and Rote, a food box from God’s Hands at Work consists of nonperishable foods for three meals a day over the course of seven days.
“There were days where we were doing 10 or 12 boxes a day,” said Carroll. “We’re normally only open on Mondays and this was an everyday thing.”
The president noted that many items had been sold out in stores in the early days of the organization’s pandemic efforts so some families were only able to acquire specific goods because of the God’s Hands’ pantry.
“We did include toilet paper and paper towels and hygiene, personal hygiene items as we had them,” said Carroll. “Most of the stores were empty, so over the course of the pandemic we could not go and restock because many of the stores were limiting how many items you could get and we couldn’t stock a food pantry that way.”
Carroll said God’s Hands had difficulty joining area food banks because much of them were at capacity already trying to fulfill the needs of their clients. God’s Hands asked for community assistance on social media next.
“Rodney Pike Church of God was the first to step up,” said Carroll. “They have a carport on their church so they would put totes out every day of the week under that and invited the public to drive by and drop food in there if they had anything extra. That’s how we started restocking our pantry.”
Carroll said such efforts started in early summer. In the following months, donations started to revolve around giving themes.
“One month was all breakfast items and another was foods that children could make on their own and things like that,” said Carroll. “We’ve had other churches step up and a lot of individuals when they heard our pantry was low.”
“We slowly restocked it and now it’s back up,” said Rote. “We had to get creative. It took a while to get there.”
Carroll said that towards the beginning of the pandemic’s presence in Ohio Valley it had been more difficult. God’s Hands is now a bit more prepared to handle the needs of clients as it adjusts to the trials of the times.
“God’s really seen us through and is still seeing us through,” said Carroll. “People were hungry. Kids were home from school. It’s just something that had to be done… We’re taking all the precautions we can with things like social distancing and masks.”
Not only did the pandemic affect the organization’s volunteer numbers, it also has taken its financial toll.
“We have since started to apply for grants, which is something we’ve never done before,” said Carroll.
The nonprofit recently received a $2,500 grant to start a mobile food pantry in Meigs County and has applied for a $5,000 to start a similar effort in Gallia County. God’s Hands was given $10,000 from Gallia County’s Huntington Township to assist with pandemic-related expenses. God’s Hands at Work representatives said Ohio Valley Bank has also presented a monetary donation to the organization’s endeavors.
The organization is preparing for coming winter challenges and said it will continue to provide support for others as best it can with heating bills and similar needs expected to grow.
“It’s all about helping. That’s what God asks us to do and we’re going to keep doing that,” said Rote.
Those seeking to help or in need of help may call God’s Hands at Work at 740-645-7609 or leave a message with the organization’s Facebook page.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Dean Wright is a freelance reporter and former full-time staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.