Adjustments made to help feed those in need
WHEELING — The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing have drastically altered everyone’s lives, but meeting even some of the most basic needs — like getting food for the day — was a challenge for some people in the Ohio Valley before the crisis began.
But those needs are being met by volunteers and organizations rising to the occasion from the heart of the community to help the most needy people get through the hardest times.
Although many organizations have had to make adjustments as the crisis unfolds, the need to feed the hungry has remained a constant, if it has not become an even greater need for some. Volunteers and staff members of organizations that work to meet those needs noted that they recognized their sense of purpose and duty in times of crisis, and indicated that the rewards of their work have never been greater.
The House of the Carpenter at 200 S. Front St. in Wheeling is one of the local organizations that provides a food pantry for the public. Rick Talasis, who works in the House of the Carpenter’s thrift store and food pantry, said in recent days, they have been serving 50-70 families on a daily basis, and each of those families could have four to five people to feed in each.
“We closed our thrift store and aren’t accepting any furniture or clothing,” Talasis said, noting one of the biggest changes the House of the Carpenter has been forced to make in the wake of the crisis. “We’re concentrating on the food pantry for now.”
People they serve must register their name, addresses and other information to be put into the non-profit organization’s system. Talasis said families come from West Virginia, Ohio and occasionally as far as Pennsylvania to receive items from the food pantry.
“We ask them to keep a certain distance, and we have curbside service,” he said. “We have bags pre-packed for pickup with canned goods, macaroni, fresh fruits and vegetables, water and other grocery items.”
Talasis said proceeds from the thrift store — which is closed because of the crisis — are used to help purchase products for the food pantry. He said supplies are running just slightly thinner than usual, but they are stocked enough to continue for the long haul. Donations from the state of West Virginia, local churches, Jebbia’s Market and other places help keep the food pantry stocked.
The food pantry at the House of the Carpenter currently is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and again from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“We’re very thankful to be able to provide this service, especially now” Talasis said.
The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling Inc. at 1610 Eoff St. also has had to make adjustments to its services in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Executive Director Becky Shilling-Rodocker said people can no longer be served inside the building. They try to make sure people in line for meals maintain their distance between one another, and one person at a time enters to receive a meal to go.
“We harvest food from a lot of the local restaurants,” Shilling-Rodocker explained, “but some of them are just closing, and others don’t have the kind of buffet lines like before. So we’re purchasing a great deal of our food and cooking it from scratch.”
Fewer volunteers are working in the Soup Kitchen, she said, noting that the staff is working extra hard to meet the need of the people they serve. But funds and donations are limited, Shilling-Rodocker said.
Last week, however, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack stepped up to help the cause. Nearly 1,500 pounds of food and supplies — including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products and bread — were packaged and donated to the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling Inc.
Kim Florence, president and general manager of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, said they are always honored to help in times of need.
“This is a challenging, unprecedented time in our community,” Florence said. “As difficult as it is for us to be temporarily closed to our team and to our guests, we wanted to continue to be a good community partner and provide assistance in times of need.”
Florence said in times like these, everyone needs to step up and support their neighbors and their community in any way they can.
“We’ve had challenges before, like floods and most recently a fire in our expo hall, and our community has always supported the casino when we were faced with troubling times,” she said. “While we all are facing this crisis together, I’m proud that our team is doing even a small part to give back, say thanks and hopefully help our neighbors.”
Another local business also recently stepped up to help bring food to those who need it. Hughes Office Equipment of Bellaire and Wheeling announced the decision to divert its delivery staff to pick up service orders from Riesbeck Food Market and Kroger, and deliver groceries to homes of local elderly residents, who are at a higher risk of being infected by the virus, Hughes Office Equipment owners John Turziano and George Roman said.
Those wishing to use this service can place their pickup orders through the stores and call the Hughes office at 740-676-8000 to share pickup and delivery details.