Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Governor Roy Cooper announced on Monday that public schools will not have in-person instruction for students until at least May 18 – meaning for much of the population in Macon County, their access to a warm meal closed with the school doors. All children in Macon County are afforded free breakfast, several schools provide school-wide free lunches, and a large percentage of the population applies and receives free or reduced lunches across the district. While Macon County Schools are working to provide meals to students, the need to ensure that children have resources to food – when many individuals are being laid off and facing with unemployment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community continues to step up to take care of one another.
During the initial two week school closure, volunteers with the Franklin Little Pantry, which is located in the Appalachian Ace Hardware parking lot, stepped up to make packages for families in need. Within a week, Appalachian Ace Hardware owners, Josh and Cortney Patrick, lost count of the number of families reaching out for help, with the numbers of families rising to the hundreds. As word spread about the Franklin Little Pantry’s efforts during the pandemic, calls for help shifted from being from families with children, to elderly residents needing help with groceries or medicines. The need quickly outgrew what resources were available, which led to a partnership between Appalachian Ace Hardware and CareNet.
Beginning Monday, CareNet Director Tom Hogsed set up with the CareNet box truck in the parking lot of Ace Hardware for a drive-thru pick up center everyday from 2 to 6 p.m. Those in need were encouraged to drive through the parking lot of Ace Hardware, tell volunteers how many members they had in their household, and they would be provided with a pre-packaged box of food, which weighs about 35 pounds. For households with children in the home, they will be provided with backpacks with supplies specifically for children.
On Monday, the partnership provided almost 100 boxes of food for different families and 300 backpacks for children.
“It is great to be able to partner with CareNet, who has years of experience doing this, to ensure everything continues to run smoothly,” Cortney Patrick said. “Working together allows us to reach more people.”
CareNet receives a large portion of their supplies from MANA Foodbank, which continues to provide resources during the crisis. On Monday, MANNA held their monthly food distribution in Macon County, providing boxed supplies out of the former Kmart building.
All agencies are taking every precaution and recommendation by the CDC to limit person-to-person interaction, where gloves, sanitizing frequently, and doing everything they can to help those in need, while keeping everyone as safe as possible.