As the COVID-19 pandemic marches on, local community service agencies and churches will be among those continuing their efforts in assisting community members in need.
Oak Hill-based Warm Hands From Warm Hearts is one such organization. Over the years, WHFWH has held soup kitchens on multiple days each week, as well as providing meals to hundreds of local children of school age. The end result won't change, although the delivery approach has been tweaked slightly, says Mike Bone, director of Warm Hands From Warm Hearts.
"We're trying to stay in our lane and do what we've been doing since 2016," said Bone.
Activities of the WHFWH ministry, as well as simply watching community support shown through churches, other organizations, the school system and elsewhere has "given me so much more faith," said Bone. "Everybody is coming together as a community. I can see it all over the county."
WHFWH representatives normally go to schools to provide children with meals to tide them over through the weekend, but now, while school is out of session, they are dropping off food bags at the following locations as part of a Food of Faith program which has been ongoing for several years:
• In the Valley area at the Gateway Center in Smithers, at the W.Va. Division of Highways parking lot at Falls View, and at Gauley Bridge Town Hall
• In Ansted at the Exxon (formerly Shell) on Rte. 60
• In Oak Hill at Pine Knoll Apartments, Minden Community Center, Rosedale Trailer Park, Collinwood Trailer Park and the old Whipple Company Store
• In Mount Hope at the fire department and the Daystar Worship Center in Kilsyth
All of the above stops will occur at 5 p.m. on Fridays, with the exception of the Whipple Company Store stop, which will be 6 p.m.
When the food is delivered, Bone and fellow volunteers want the children to be present as to "make a connection."
WHFWH also hosts soup kitchens every Monday and Thursday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and each second Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Center of Hope at 319 Main Street East in Oak Hill.
Bone says, in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Warm Hands From Warm Hearts takes precautions at the Center of Hope. There is tape marking off 6-foot sections to force people to practice social distancing, and no more than 10 people — including volunteers — is allowed inside at any one time. All those who go inside must use hand sanitizer, and volunteers also wear gloves.
Bone thanked the community for its continued support, and he praised the work of the Mountaineer Food Bank and local church leaders such as Pastor Mike Meadows of the Oak Hill First Brethren Church in efforts such as this.
For more information or to arrange for a donation of food or money to help with the ongoing mission, call Bone at 304-222-0629.
Financial donations can be mailed to: Warm Hands From Warm Hearts, 319 Main Street E., Oak Hill, WV 25901.
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Following are details of related meals and pantry situations for which current information could be confirmed:
• Fayette County Family Resource Network — Included among the many services it helps coordinate, the Fayette County Family Resource Network lists several community meals and food pantries on its website, www.fayettefrn.com. The list was compiled prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hours of operation may have changed or be limited to comply with regulations, said Diane Callison, director of the Fayette County FRN. Also, there may be changes in how food is distributed, so folks are reminded to check ahead of time to see if meals or food pantries are still occurring as scheduled.
"The Family Resource Network is a state-funded grant that provides in-direct services to the residents of Fayette County," said Callison. "Our mission is to strengthen individuals, families and communities through education, mobilization, resource development, inter-agency coordination, strategic planning, needs assessments and ongoing evaluation of services.
"Our website offers a resource directory ranging from multiple topics which you can find here: http://www.fayettefrn.com/resource-directory/."
Donations to local agencies of your choice are always welcome, she pointed out.
• Southern Appalachian Labor School — SALS held a special pantry on Wednesday to distribute food in pre-boxed fashion.
SALS Director Dr. John David said on a recent day SALS representatives picked up pizzas and distributed them to various places, including the Regina Three Rivers Apartments in Gauley Bridge, which SALS operates. He also said the organization works through the Mountaineer Food Bank to secure food for pantry distribution. And, SALS looks out for local residents, especially the elderly, to make sure they have what they need.
"We just try our best to make sure folks who are shut in or have a disability or are senior citizens" don't get overlooked, said David.
• North Fayette Food Pantry — Located at the Falls View Community Center (former Falls View School on Rte. 60), the North Fayette Food Pantry operates on the third Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon, providing free USDA commodities to those who qualify, in accordance with federal and USDA policy.
The pantry is supported by 10 churches and several individuals.
Monetary or food donations are welcome.
Due to COVID-19, people won't be allowed in the building until 9 a.m., and there can be no more than 10 at a time inside.
For more information or to donate, call 304-389-3513.
• Oak Hill First Brethren Church — The church still plans on having its monthly community meal on Saturday, March 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its fellowship center on Central Avenue.
It will be a boxed meal in a carryout situation, said Pastor Mike Meadows.
For more information or to make a donation, email Meadows at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church at 304-469-6153.
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