Local Organizations Partner with Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to Provide Food and Resources
Courtesy of Brian E. Kinghorn
Stake Communication Director
Huntington West Virginia Stake
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
On the first day of Christmas Santa gave to me....a semi-truck full of food!
One of the greatest gifts of the holiday season is seeing communities and groups come together to meet the needs of those within its boundaries. This occurred at The Neighborhood on Carter Avenue in Ashland on Thursday, December 1 as community groups came together to give an extra boost to resources in The Neighborhood and its branch agencies. A total of 36,000 pounds of nonperishable food, laundry detergent, and other necessities arrived via semi-truck. This time it wasn’t from the North Pole, but still some beautiful snowcapped mountains of Utah.
When PrimaryPlus Community Health Worker, Amandae Gee, recently toured The Neighborhood and met with representatives for Ashland’s Community Assistance & Referral Services, Inc. (CAReS), they mentioned their emergency pantry was bare, as was the Primary Plus emergency cupboard. The River Cities Harvest was also running scarce. She shared the need and concern with local leadership from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where she attends. President Kevin Osborne, second counselor in the Huntington West Virginia Stake* presidency, who oversees the church’s humanitarian contributions in the tristate area, was anxious to get the truck rolling. Osborne said he was thrilled to help out and grateful that the world-wide church has been so quick to respond to his requests for assistance recently. He added, “I’m grateful to be a small part of these efforts to develop relationships and work with likeminded people to assist those in need as our Savior would do, but the credit needs to go to those community organizers who do the day-to-day work.”
Once the food delivery was authorized and ordered, 22 local future heroes from Greenup County JROTC, under the direction of Captain Rice, were enlisted to assist with unloading organizing the donated food and supplies. After unloading the truck, they also assisted with arranging and hanging up clothes in The Dressing Room and getting toys ready for the Angel Tree families. Beth Hannah, the Relief Society President for the Ashland Ward (congregation) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located in Flatwoods, added additional volunteers to the effort. King’s Daughters Medical Center provided a forklift and driver to add to the efficiency of unloading the truck. The Clinic Director for Primary Plus-Ashland, Jody Jones, provided additional help from the clinic and stood by for any unforeseen needs.
Captain Rice shared that this was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience for him and his cadets. “It is great to know the resources that surround us when I have students and families that may need a little extra help getting on their feet.” Amandae Gee added, “this is what makes up a community! Everyone coming together for the common good. When community agencies, like The Neighborhood, are fully serviced it makes my job much easier. I know the resources are there and in place when I have a referral. It is a win for all of us, and the community as a whole!” Beth Hannah added that “it is not often on the local congregation level that you get to see the humanitarian efforts of the church on this grand of a scale. It is very rewarding to see the church in action.”
Lynn Childers of CAReS directed the volunteers and worked right alongside them all day even with December being her busiest month. She has shared that The Neighborhood is always in need of donations, especially winter supplies. They are in desperate need of winter gloves, toboggans, and blankets or sleeping bags for all ages. You can drop them off Monday thru Friday before 3 p.m.
This was just one of 10 semi-trucks that have rolled into the tristate area in the last 6 months totaling approximately 400,000 pounds of food and supplies. These deliveries represent a continued effort by the church to aid in relief efforts and replenish much needed food and supplies at local food banks following the devastating flooding in Eastern Kentucky. This included two Helping Hands Command Center weekends in in Hazard and Martin, KY in August. Approximately 2,800 members of the church from Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida volunteered over 65,000 hours in their trademark Helping Hands yellow shirts and vests mucking out homes and buildings, clearing debris, and tearing out drywall, flooring, and carpets.
Gee and Osborne are also coordinating another delivery tentatively scheduled in January for Carter County, which is labeled as a food desert since it has no standalone food bank. The church will be partnering with Carter County Family Resource Centers and other agencies to get the donations to the families that need them the most. Gee has met with local government leaders in Carter County to push for a daily Community Food Pantry of their own. As a community health professional at a federally qualified health clinic that offers affordable and high-quality healthcare to all patients, and as a Latter-day Saint, Gee’s joint mission is to serve one-to-one and lift where she can. “It is easy to get overwhelmed with the grand scheme of needs in the Boyd and Carter areas, but together we can lift much higher than doing it alone,” she stated.