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Social Service Nonprofits Stretched Thin This Holiday Season

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“People eat all year long. So when people say they serve for the holidays, they tend to forget after Christmas, people are still hungry,” says Rhonda Sneed of Blessing Warriors. (File Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

*Louise Keeton contributed to the reporting of this story.

In past years, Chesterfield Food Bank CEO Kim Hill said they would prepare a big sit-down Thanksgiving meal to be served to residents who live along the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor. But that changed due to COVID-19.

“This year, we are supplying the food for like five to six hundred meals to go out to be delivered to motels, the homeless, and people that are homebound and need help,” she said.

Hill said the Food Bank, which was established in 2012 as a faith-based nonprofit, has doubled the number of people they are serving as well.

“We serve over 30,000 people a month. Where pre-COVID, we were 10 to 12,000,” she said.

The pandemic has also made them adapt to how they do business.

“With the pandemic more people are in need,” said Hill. “It is definitely just putting a stress on all the resources that are available to people. I know this word is overused. But unprecedented is exactly the work that needs to be used, because we've never been in this boat before.”

Like Hill, Rhonda Sneed of Blessing Warriors has also seen an increase in requests for help. She says this goes beyond the holidays. 

“People eat all year long. So when people say they serve for the holidays, they tend to forget after Christmas, people are still hungry,” Sneed said. “Actually, what people do during the holidays, we do it all year long.”

But Blessing Warriors won’t be out serving meals on Thanksgiving.

On Facebook, they wrote: “We do NOT serve on Thanksgiving Day because EVERYONE serves on those days. I've literally seen in the past 4 years tons of food thrown away because there is no way anyone can eat all that food.”

Both Sneed and Hill say the best way to help their organizations is to donate money. Hill says the donations are still needed despite getting grants and funding from the Federal CARES Act. 

“We are using grant money, CARES grant money, grants from our local county government--everything that we can get our hands on,” Hill said.  “We are putting [that] right back into the mission for refrigeration for food to expand space.”

Hill said the money allows them to bring in more tractor trailer loads of food. And she added that they can always use volunteers.

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Rhonda Sneed of Blessing Warriors uses the money to help find temporary housing and feeds people in need and put gas in their vans--which she said sometimes goes through a tank a day.

“There's a lot of people still on the street,” Sneed said.

Sneed says the ongoing pandemic is resulting in more people living on the street. And she says with cold weather coming, people need shelter.

“It is the sanitary reasons it's important that these people be inside of a shelter. Hand washing--there's no place to wash hands at,” she said.

Right now, Sneed says they no longer need clothing donations but do need these items:

“Sleeping bags, blankets, tents, tarps are ALWAYS needed. We are ALWAYS in need of non-perishable foods! Cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, pasta sauce, tuna, canned ravioli and other pastas, ready to eat soups, anything individual serving cracker packs.”

For housing assistance, call the Homeless Crisis Line at 804-972-0813.