COVID-19 results in St. Anne Outreach handing out 288,000 meals in 15 weeks

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

This story was produced as part of the WRBL 2020 Summer Intern program

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)—-Hand-washing and great hygiene has been covered in the media over the past 15 weeks. Health is important physically and mentally, but you have to feed your mind. Katie Byers Executive Director of St. Anne Outreach is Columbus, Ga refuses to let up even though this pandemic.

Byers says at the beginning of March when the spread of COVID- 19 increased they had to let go of all of their volunteers with the exception of two people. Most of their workers were 70 and older making them more susceptible to getting the virus.

The outreach had 100 volunteers and was down to only two at the beginning of this pandemic 

“We’ve had about 40 volunteers from Fort Benning and many other individuals come help and give back to the community. We have data calculated of people served dated back to 2012 and this has been our most impactful year,” said Byers.

The number of cases is increasing and new volunteers are helping out. The number of people in need did not slow down. 

In the past 15 weeks alone 66 percent of the families served are new. In the past 3 months, they have served 2,808 families. That is 9,480 people totaling up to 288,000 meals.

“Prior to COVID-19, we would serve 75 to 100 families per week. After the announcement of the pandemic, our numbers rose to 138 families in one day. Our volunteers have truly been a blessing. They come from all walks of life and are genuinely caring individuals. Many who can barely provide food for their own families,” said Byers.

The demand for more meals has resulted in the outreach transitioning the way that they distribute food. The Volunteers have spent every Monday and Wednesday packaging up groceries and preparing meals to distribute to the families in need.

Tuesday and Thursday mornings have been spent distributing food with their mobile drive-thru. Families drive by and volunteer place goods and groceries in their cars and the families continue with their day. The outreach has abided by social distance guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control. 

“We have let families come and volunteer to keep them safe from others. They come in package food and leave in a manner where everyone is safe,” said Byers.

The St. Annes Outreach mission statement is to:

“…provide food and clothing to those in great need or in emergency situations. Financial assistance for utilities, rent, and prescription costs may also be provided, dependent upon the availability of funds. We also provide the items for the care of infants, linens and blankets, fans, items fir elderly care, toiletries, small household items, and school supplies. Clients are served irrespective of age, race, gender ethnicity, or religion. Clients include but are not limited to single parents, the elderly, displaced families, recovering drug/ alcohol addicts, victims of crime/abuse, the medically ill and the mentally or physically challenged disabled persons.”

“We also have families who are unable to receive transportation to pick up their food so we have allowed certain volunteers to strictly just deliver to those families. Nutrition is important to us and we want to make sure that we receive food as well,” said Byers.

The outreach is closed for the last week of June to prepare for the second wave of people affected by the pandemic. Katie Byers says that the outreach center will continue this pandemic  on an appointment schedule, to maintain more safety due to social distancing.

“It’s the amazing stories of perseverance in families that come to see us. When you’re in crisis and worried about a roof to cover people’s heads. It strips you down as a person. I learn and gain so much strength in hearing people’s stories. I want to be like them. I want to be strong and have that courage. That’s what has kept me coming back every day for the past 10 years, “ said Byers.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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