With elderly people considered among the most vulnerable populations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, venturing out for food and supplies comes with even more risk for them.
That reality recently sparked a collaboration between several community organizations and volunteers to help out nearly 200 seniors in need.
In a coordinated effort between the Winder Housing Authority, Barrow County Leisure Services, Barrow County Family Connection, Wimberly’s Roots, Bethlehem Church and other organizations, three weeks’ worth of meals and other supplies were delivered to 180 senior housing authority residents.
“It was pretty amazing how multiple people joined to make this happen,” Barrow County Leisure Services director Dan Magee said earlier this month. “I’ve been here five years now and this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen.”
Magee said Ben McDaniel, executive director for Barrow County Family Connection, reached out to him about the WHA seniors and Magee was able to secure food through GA Foods — the same vendor the county uses to serve 60-70 meals per week through Meals on Wheels to its senior center clients — and boxes of seven frozen meals and milk were delivered to each of the 180 WHA seniors March 30, April 6 and April 13. Magee said a private charity and then the state would pick up the next deliveries.
Bethlehem Church paid for one of the weeks of deliveries in addition to the toilet paper and paper towels it currently provides to 110 housing authority seniors and the paper products and 200 loaves of bread for 50-70 county senior center members, said Shane Crowe, a member of the church’s pastoral team.
Barrow County Family Connection fundraised the costs of the meals. McDaniel said in addition to the Bethlehem Church’s contribution and the other aforementioned organizations, contributions were made by the Rotary Club of Winder, the Georgia Club Foundation and 31 individual donors through a GoFundMe online fundraiser.
Numerous volunteers, led by Barbara Wells, Joann Smith and Steffanie Sorrells, helped deliver the meals, McDaniel said.
John Huff, food and nutrition services coordinator for the Wimberly’s Roots community garden, kitchen and food initiative, coordinated the deliveries.
“All those people deserve the credit for coming together and quickly securing the meals,” Magee said. “Our goal is to keep these seniors sheltered in place as much as possible. The more stuff we can get to them, the likelier that is to happen.
“It was just heartwarming to see this all unfold.”
The food and supply drive was just one of many ongoing community efforts to get food and other supplies to seniors and other vulnerable residents around the community.
Wimberly’s Roots recently hosted a food donation drive specifically targeted toward hospitality and service industry employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even as restaurants have been allowed to reopen for dine-in service in Georgia through an order by Gov. Brian Kemp, the order comes with several requirements and other guidelines, including that crowds be limited and that work shifts be staggered — meaning that employees will still see their income impacted.
“We focused on the restaurant and hospitality industry because those working hourly in restaurants and hotels top the list of those most vulnerable,” Huff said. “They have little to no safety net and are instantly in crisis. Any restaurant and hospitality employee (cooks, dishwashers, servers, bartenders, housekeepers, etc.) could pick up a box containing canned foods, dry goods, paper towels, toilet paper and fresh vegetables from Wimberly’s Roots.”
Huff said the Winder Police Department donated chicken for the effort while Bethlehem Church supplied toilet paper and paper towels. The canned and dried goods came from the Barrow County Cooperative Benevolence Ministries.
In addition, Huff said Wimberly’s Roots, the Winder Housing Authority, Winder First Baptist Church, Adventure Bags, other various volunteers and the Barrow County School System continue to deliver 1,225 school meals per week to students living at housing authority properties.
The meals are prepared by school nutrition staff and transported to the Wimberly Center via school bus. Church and community volunteers then distribute the meals to the children.
Any meals that aren’t given directly to the students are then given to Barrow County nonprofit Spirit of Sharing to be distributed to other families in need.