• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Community supports food pantry during COVID pandemic

A CORE GROUP OF FIVE VOLUNTEERS has allowed the Food Pantry for Woodford County to continue distributing groceries to families in the community facing food insecurity. With food drives canceled due to the pandemic, people in the community have stepped up to donate thousands of dollars to help pay for food items. Pictured from right are Barbara Brooks, Nancy Redden, Ron Peters, Liz DeBell, director Sharon Hardin and Celia Thompson. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

People in the community have stepped up to support the Food Pantry for Woodford County during a pandemic that caused the cancellation of all, but one food drive since March.

Donations have regularly filled the food pantry’s post office box, and a total of $84,000 was received by mid-October, Sharon Hardin, executive director of the food pantry, told the Sun. She said grant awards totaling just over $10,000 made up a small portion of what was received, with the bulk coming from donations.

Woodford County residents have been giving hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, Hardin said.

“It’s really been amazing to say the least,” said pantry board Chair Bill Phelps. The numerous donations that poured in showed, once again, “what a caring community that we live in,” he added, “and how people want to help and want to step forward and do what they can to assist in these times …”

Some people continue to donate $200, $300, $400 and $500 a month, Hardin said.

Many of the donations were made anonymously, so Phelps said it’s important to let them know how much he and other volunteers appreciate what they’ve done to support the food pantry.

Amazingly, because of the community’s generosity during food drives held in the months prior to March, Food Pantry for Woodford County volunteers did not have to start buying nonperishable food items to restock their shelves until June, according to Hardin.

During the pandemic, a core group of only five volunteers – there are normally 12 – have been working to distribute groceries to families facing food insecurity every Monday and Thursday. The number of families receiving food items on those days has remained consistent at about 120 or so a month, Hardin said.

To protect volunteers and those picking up food boxes now and in the months ahead, the Food Pantry for Woodford County has spent about $5,000 on personal protective equipment (PPE) and related supplies, Hardin said. She said the food pantry has remained open through the pandemic by moving to a drive-thru service so they could limit person-to-person exposure, and they were fortunate to have some PPE on hand before making larger purchases.

In addition to that cost, the food pantry has purchased two refrigerators and a freezer (at a total cost of about $3,500), which wasn’t easy because of supply and demand issues during a pandemic, Phelps explained. “So that (donated) money really helped,” he said.

Also helping the food pantry was a community, drive-thru food drive spearheaded by Cindy Patterson and Sarah Swinford, of Woodford County High School. During four hours on Saturday, Aug. 8, “they collected just 55 pounds short of 3,000 pounds of food. They (also) collected $5,300 (in donations). … I’m overwhelmed. I just cannot thank people enough for what they’re doing for the food pantry,” said Hardin.

Knowing the many struggles faced by food pantries in other communities, volunteer Peggy Carter Seal said, “We can be so thankful we live in a county like Woodford County that has the resources and generosity and the love in their hearts to support the food pantry in this time.”

“We’re truly blessed,” added Phelps.

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COVID-19 in Woodford County

Total cases: 409 (up 41 from last week) Most recent: Oct. 27 (seven cases) Source: Woodford County Health Department, Oct. 27

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