The Foundation is always committed to taking care of our community, but especially so during times of disaster and chaos. Most recently, disaster struck our community in the forms of a pandemic and a natural disaster.
On March 13th, our two school systems announced the closing of schools due to COVID-19 and our community began preparing for what was to come. There were so many unknowns at that time. Were masks needed? Could you get the virus by touching groceries? Is it really going to strike our community?
At the Community Foundation, we certainly had a page full of questions with no good answers. So, we did what we do best. We brought nonprofit organizations, school systems, city leaders, and churches into to a community conversation to determine next steps. Preparing for the unknown is not easy, but our community rallied and we did our best for those in the greatest need.
We started with children. Both school systems made the decision to give Raising Arrows the food they would have served children who normally would have been in school. Raising Arrows increased their normal production of hot meals and instead of 1,000 meals a week, began preparing 2,000 meals a day. These boxed lunches were distributed at 11 sites throughout Walker County. Each car also received a bag of groceries courtesy of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Food Bank. Churches and volunteers served as hosts and made everything run smoothly. Those two weeks were a testament to the heart of Walker County’s agencies, churches and people loving people.
In the meantime, Salvation Army was delivering groceries to more than 150 senior adults who were at risk and in need of food. Backyard Blessings had 800 bags of food for children, but needed some administrative assistance to create a delivery service. Byars Wright employees, and several other volunteers, called the parents of the 800+ children who normally receive Backyard Blessings food in their backpacks to ask permission to deliver their bags of food to their homes. Local teachers and principals from each of the schools served as the delivery teams.
The Governor’s Stay at Home order was issued at the end of week two and we had to revamp. Raising Arrows continued to serve hot meals but the number of locations were cut to seven using employees as site hosts. Salvation Army continued to deliver food to seniors and St. Mary’s Food Bank went back to their normal operating schedule.
The Community Foundation opened an Emergency Grant Cycle for those organizations providing direct service to people during the pandemic. We also began a program for Out of Work individuals who had been laid off, furloughed or had a reduction of hours. A hotline was created for these individuals to call to connect to resources for utility and rental assistance. They had to apply for unemployment to be considered for funding. Mission of Hope, Walker County Coalition for the Homeless, Walker County Community Action Agency, Salvation Army and the JAMES Ministry all served as conduits for this program.
Easter Sunday Tornadoes
On Easter Sunday, tornadoes struck many towns within Walker County. This disaster created the need for Long Term Recovery (LTR) for families displaced because of the storm. We were able to bring 12 families back to being safe, sanitary and secure…the goal of the LTR Committee. So many individuals, churches and communities came together to support those in the greatest need during this time and we were grateful to be a part of the solution for these families.
We are forever keeping our eye on the current situation in our community as we continue to plan for future needs. People are scared during times of disaster, and hopefully, we are providing a sliver of hope for them to cling to in these times. We thank our donors for allowing us the opportunity to help in so many ways. It shows your heart for this community and once again proves that our value is worth more than the money we give.