While thousands of Western North Carolina families struggle to hold on through the pandemic and its economic impacts, our alliance of partners and supporters, whom we work with daily, continue to stretch every available resource to make sure these families can weather the crisis long enough to reach the light at the end of a long and unmapped tunnel.
Our partners and outreach staff have heard thousands of personal stories over the last eleven months. A few main themes have stood out in our daily work since the start of the pandemic. First, thousands of people across WNC have been thrust into a situation where, for the first time in their lives, they can no longer cover their basic living needs. Second, a huge number of people calling the MANNA Food Helpline often don’t know about the free and available resources that already exist. And third, the lines at our partner pantries across the 16 counties we serve are the longest they’ve ever been.
And the question so many are asking: How much longer can we hold on?
Each month, as our partners report their client numbers, we feel ourselves holding our collective breath, hoping for a break in the still-growing numbers of people needing emergency food support. When we work to get food support to a gentleman living in his car—who is sending what little money he can scrape together to his wife living with and caring for her elderly mother—our hearts clench. When we hear the struggle that people face in simply getting to a partner’s food distribution location, having to take two buses and walk several miles one way with rolling suitcases in tow to carry the food home, we know the need is deepening.
Yet, there is hope.
Every box of food passed to another is not just food; it’s hope and an affirmation that this incredible community stands together. We see tears of relief in a young mother’s eyes when she has visited one of our partners, and they have placed boxes of food in the back seat of her car. We hear stories of people finding our Helpline, and the sound of worry changing to calm in their voice as they work with a member of our Helpline team to access food. We know that our alliance of partners and volunteers are doing more than helping set the table for their next meal. This incredible community is alleviating a huge layer of stress for thousands of families: one less worry…for today. For all of these families who are able to weather through to the next day, or week, or month, relief simply can’t come soon enough.
We share these moments with you to share not just the critical need our friends and neighbors continue to face; we share these moments with you because every single one of these individuals has received the vital food support they need to continue facing each day of trials – thanks to you. Your inspiring support, and that of a community banding together in the face of this extended crisis, is the safety net that is protecting so many families from falling through the cracks. Your partnership is truly making a life-saving difference for more people now than ever before.
On behalf of everyone receiving this vital support, we want to express our deep gratitude. Thank you for helping to keep food moving from our warehouse doors to families’ tables all across the mountains.