Family and Compassion
Along the intersection of the North Toe River and Highway 226, hope is as abundant as the trees for which the town is named. Here in Spruce Pine, off of Roan Road is Neighbors Feeding Neighbors, one of eight MANNA partner agencies in Mitchell County. Amy and Allen Hoilman have worked tirelessly for the past two years to grow their food ministry to meet the dynamic needs in their community. “It’s a lot of fun,” Amy says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I wouldn’t change it for nothing in the world. The people who we serve have truly become our family.” You can’t talk with Amy and Allen for long, without hearing this deep sense of family and compassion.
When they first opened in February 2018, Neighbors Feeding Neighbors provided food to 3 families. In May 2020, the organization served 1,442 families, representing 2,857 individuals.
A Deep Need in Mitchell County
The Hoilmans and their volunteers take time to get to know each of these families, whether through their new drive-thru pantry model or home delivery initiative. Allen recently helped delivery food to a 72-year-old blind woman who was referred to Neighbors Feeding Neighbors by a relative. “It was one of those houses that looks good on the outside, but when we went inside, you just wouldn’t believe it. We heard that when she goes to bed, she has to cover her head with a basket to protect her from a leak.” The home food delivery allowed the ministry to identify other needs for which they were able to assist. They helped to get her to a hospital to be treated for pneumonia and malnutrition. Allen shared that over two weeks, the woman had had no more than cheese sandwiches. She’s been adopted into the Neighbors Feeding Neighbors family. The church cooks her a meal each night and has helped get her roof covered. She is dry. She has access to fresh produce on a regular basis. “Without yuns,” she says, “I don’t know what I would do.”
From No Hope, to Hope
Four miles down the road, Mitchell County Senior Center Director, Kathy Garland says things look very different since COVID-19 and stay-at-home directives. A bible study now meets in lawn chairs outside, 6 feet apart and in masks. Their Meals On Wheels program has turned into a drive-thru hot meal and home deliveries. At the onset of the global health crisis, Kathy was appointed as the County Feeding Coordinator by Emergency Management. She helps coordinate Mitchell County food pantries services and gaps.
“We’ve been able to serve so many people with different needs. We didn’t know them, they didn’t know us until this pandemic,” Kathy says. She has heard stories from a gentleman who had nothing to eat but cereal for two weeks until he was connected to the Senior Center and a 90-year-old woman whose primary caregiver was no longer able to check in because of COVID-19. The Senior Center delivers meals to her daily now.
“I’m just so touched by the number of volunteers AND by the number of people who are hungry. It’s sad, but this time has strengthened our belief. This work is important.”
Amy Hoilman shares this conviction: “The biggest thing that I see is that we get to watch people go from no hope to hope. People tell us, ‘you’ve given us hope and helped restore my faith’.”
Neighbors Feeding Neighbors hosts a drive-thru pantry distribution Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 12:00-5:00 PM, as well a Community Meal every other Saturday, which has turned into hot meals to-go these days. They are available for direct home deliveries and local CSA farm packs. The Senior Center delivers to Meals On Wheels clients Monday through Friday.