Cupboards are getting bare in Rocky Mount, N.C.

By: Major Frank Duracher

Mother Hubbard has nothing on the six staff members at the Rocky Mount Corps in North Carolina, as they have been able to scratch and stretch food donations and other resources to assist from 250 to 500 families each Monday during the coronavirus crisis.

The local food bank has been providing a truckload of grocery items, in addition to fresh vegetables every first Monday of the month, according to Jamie Lyles, the Army’s Pathway of Hope director for the Rocky Mount Corps. Replenished every month, the resource usually provides enough food boxes for several weeks.

“On ‘normal’ Mondays throughout the year we average about 250 boxes, but during the April delivery”—the first during the coronavirus emergency—”on that Monday we doubled our number to 570,” Lyles said.

She added that the corps food pantry has been severely taxed during the last six weeks or so since the economic catastrophe started. “We normally got food donations before this started, but our pantry has pretty much emptied out now.”

For the April delivery from the food bank, Lyles and her coworkers ran a drive-by distribution employed by most corps everywhere these days.

“That’s a lot of work for a staff our size,” she said, “and we were out there non-stop from 9:00 to 4:00. It was a constant flow of cars.”

On the other three or four Mondays, caseworkers take appointments and deliver the food boxes to cars coming specifically for their much-needed items. Rent and utility assistance is still being processed, albeit with modifications forced by the outbreak.

“We have a partnership with a utility here, and we communicate virtually,” Lyles said. Clients provide the necessary credentials either by email or by taking a photo on their phone and forwarding those to Salvation Army staff.

Clothing vouchers are suspended until the Family Stores reopen.

As far as the Army’s response going forward into what looks like will be the third month of this response, Lyles said, “It is hard to set a concrete plan because things change, it seems daily. The situation is very fluid, and we’re depending on the (state) government for guidance.”

“To further help our COVID-19 outreach, the local United Way provided the corps with a $2,500 grant,” said Major David Phelps, Rocky Mount corps officer.

It is hard to predict what will be needed one week or even one day in advance. But he added that he is most appreciative of the public support they have seen.

“We appreciate our volunteers and staff that helped us serve our community during these trying days and throughout the year,” Major Phelps said.