Each month about 150 families rely on St. Agnes Church’s Dare to Care Food Pantry to supplement their nutritional needs.
In the global health crisis caused by COVID-19, organizers of the food pantry turned the farmers-market style food pantry into a drive-through last Saturday, March 28, to help protect volunteers and guests.
Meg Schuler, a St. Agnes parishioner and one of the pantry’s organizers, said she was “excited” the parish was still able to offer the pantry and “grateful” people were still willing to volunteer.
“I had a lot of people email me asking if they could still come and help. It was heartwarming in this time when no one knows what to do but still wants to help,” Schuler said in a phone interview March 27.
Guests were asked to remain in their cars and form a line in the parking lot between the school and church on Newburg Road.
In an effort to respect the distancing and virus prevention guidelines, organizers of the food pantry cut back the number of volunteers to about 20 people. Children under 18 and persons 60 years and older were asked to stay home.
Volunteers had their temperatures checked upon arrival, wore gloves and masks and respected the six-foot social distancing guideline.
As volunteers loaded car after car, guests shouted out their appreciation and encouragement. One woman even sang a hymn. About 100 families received food March 28.
Stan Siegwald, director of strategic initiatives at Dare to Care, said the food charity’s challenge is maintaining a strong food assistance network while also following social distancing protocols.
“It’s been really neat to see the community rally and come up with creative ways to address the situation,” Siegwald said in a phone interview March 27.
Dare to Care has close to 250 distribution partners, including St. Agnes, in the Kentuckiana area and only 13 have had to close due to the coronavirus, Siegwald said.
In the last week, Siegwald said, Dare to Care food sites have seen about a 15 to 20 percent increase in need. It’s critical, he said, for individuals to reach out if they experience a sudden need for assistance.
“It’s important for folks as we go through this if they find themselves needing help with food that they seek it, that they don’t feel any type of stigma.
“This is why Dare to Care exists. This is how we can be neighbors to each other,” he said.
Schuler and her husband, David, helped to start the pantry nearly two years ago because they recognized the need in the community and thought their parish could help fill the void.
“I think the outpouring of support and help shows the parishioners have embraced this ministry and made it their own. It’s been so gratifying to witness,” she said.