With a truckload of 1,200 boxes of food pulling into the Pike County YMCA parking lot Saturday morning, CEO Kim Conley knew her prayers had been answered.

Under Conley’s direction, the Pike County YMCA has become an organization focused on doing what it can for the good of the community. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, getting food for those in need has been an emphasis since hunger is a problem in southern Ohio.

Conley feels that divine intervention led to the YMCA being able to host the event, coordinated through the East-West Food Rescue and Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD)/RSVP of the Ohio Valley, which serves Jackson, Gallia, Meigs, Vinton, Pike, Ross, Lawrence, and Scioto counties. The food itself is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box. Volunteers from the Recovery Council, First National Bank, the Pike County YMCA and several area churches were on hand Saturday to help distribute the boxes.

“Two weeks ago, we went and picked up 150 food boxes at old South Galllia High School in Gallia County. We set up here in the parking lot and distributed them,” said Conley. “Then I requested 300. I got the email last week that the truck was going to deliver here. I said, ‘Great! 300?’ She said, ‘No, 1,200.’”

Conley felt overwhelmingly blessed and thrilled that her prayers had been answered. So she and her staff went to work coordinating a plan.

“When the semi comes in, they are contracted, so they don’t help with unloading. You have to have the truck unloaded in a certain amount of time because they are on a clock,” said Conley.

“Sargents Sales & Rentals, Waverly, was wonderful. They donated the skid steer with the fork lift and a pallet jack. There was 32,000 pounds of food on that truck, and 40 boxes per pallet. The boxes probably weighed 30 pounds each. Those all had to be taken off of the truck.

“The Recovery Council had guys here to help, and they were awesome. We had volunteers from Vanguard Church, the YMCA staff and First National Bank. Had we had any boxes left, Ritchie’s (Food Distributor) in Piketon was going to help us store them because they were perishable goods.”

The contents in each box included five pounds of shaved turkey, a half gallon of yogurt, a gallon of milk, red onions, apples, a bag of potatoes, hot dogs, and a block of cheese.

A flyer from the USDA explains the program, saying, “USDA is partnering with farmers, ranchers, specialty crop producers, food processors and distributors, and non-profit organizations to ensure that all Americans have access to the fresh and wholesome food they need during the COVID-19 national emergency.

“Farmers sell food previously destined for restaurants and bulk purchasers to distributors, preventing waste. Distributors partner with the USDA to package family-sized boxes with fresh produce, dairy and meat products, then transport them to non-profits across America. Families pick up food boxes from local schools, food banks, faith-based organizations and other non-profits.”

At various times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pike County YMCA has been holding “Food Bag Fridays” and providing a bag of food to anyone in need who shows up to receive one until supplies run out. Adding the Farmers to Families Food Box program is just another way that those who are hungry can receive some assistance. And it isn’t over. More food will be available from 12 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21 and again on Oct. 28.

During Saturday’s distribution, Conley and YMCA Financial Director Algnette McNelly said everyone who came through to receive food was thankful and gracious. No one complained about the long wait in line to receive a food box.

“There have been some posts on our Facebook page, thanking us and everyone involved. Also every person who came Saturday said thank you, bless you, or God bless you. It was emotional,” said Conley.

“It was a big event. We had hundreds of cars,” added McNelly. “I asked people who were coming through if they knew anyone else who might need food. If they did, we told them that we wanted them to help us pay it forward and take additional food. There were so many people who were thankful and appreciative of that option since we knew there were people who couldn’t get here. We wanted to make sure those families were taken care of.”

Conley and McNelly were so appreciative to all of the volunteers who worked together to get the job done.

“Saturday was a well-oiled machine. People were patient, even though they had to wait. People came and waited in line to get the boxes for other people. It just speaks volumes,” said Conley.

“We had a couple of churches come and get 50 boxes each to help out. People did what was needed to be done like directing traffic. This was a pay it forward event.”

The Pike County YMCA, located at 400 Pride Drive, Waverly, will be giving out food boxes on Wednesday, Oct. 21 and again on Wednesday, Oct. 28 through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program. Food boxes can be picked up from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

“We are hoping the funding will come through so we can continue doing more of these events,” said Conley.

For more information, contact the Pike County YMCA at (740) 947-8862 or visit their Facebook page online.

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Email at jbillings@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @ Julie_Billings

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