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Community Collaboration Feeds Thousands of Area Residents

Community Services Board teams up with LDS Church and local organizations to provide nearly 40,000 pounds of food to individuals in need

The pantry was almost bare. Fredericksburg United Methodist Church gave bags of food to 400 families in March and by mid-April, the bags dwindled while the demand for help surged. But a joint community effort replenished the church’s food pantry and provided food for more than a dozen local organizations facing similar struggles.

Woman loads food donations into a truck
Amy Jindra Rippy places a box of food into a vehicle loaded with donations for Healthy Families Rappahannock Area.

On April 23, a tractor trailer pulled up to HDT Global’s warehouse in Spotsylvania County, carrying nearly 40,000 pounds of food donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the Fredericksburg Community.

The large philanthropic effort was organized by Amy Jindra Rippy, the coordinator of the Kenmore Club, a day program run by Rappahannock Area Community Services Board for adults with severe and persistent mental illness. That program provides job skills, meaningful relationships, and community involvement for about 90 individuals.

Young man loads boxes of donated food into a trailer.
Kristophe Newman packs a trailer with food for Fredericksburg United Methodist Church.

The clubhouse closed its doors due to social distancing requirements from the coronavirus, and staff provided supports by video conferencing. But the program also provides nutritious meals, which can’t be offered via Zoom. Many clubhouse members also rely on other community partners, and Rippy knew those organizations were seeing growing demands for help as unemployment surged after the pandemic forced the closure of many businesses.

Rippy belongs to the LDS Church and when she discovered that the Salt Lake City-based denomination was sending truckloads of food around the country, she asked if the Fredericksburg area could receive a donation. The next hurdle was finding a place to distribute about 20 tons of food. HDT stepped in to offer a warehouse and a forklift.

“We are concerned for all those who are suffering during this pandemic and are excited to work with RACSB to distribute needed food to those in the Fredericskburg area,” said John Genho, president of the Fredericksburg Stake of the LDS Church. He provides guidance to leaders of nine congregations in the Fredericksburg and Culpeper regions. “We hope we can continue to work with RACSB in the future to reach those in the most need.”

With help from RACSB, Rippy coordinated a two-day effort that provided food for groups big and small, including schools, nonprofits, government agencies, and faith-based programs.

Micah Ecumenical Ministries will use nearly 5,000 pounds from the food donation to sustain more than 100 formerly homeless individuals who now have a roof over their heads, said Executive Servant Leader Meghann Cotter.

“It is so important at a time like this to have key support from the community to fill the gaps,” she said. “Many of the resources our folks previously depended on are shut down or overrun by demand.”

Fredericksburg Area HIV/AIDS Support Services used their donated provisions for more than 30 clients struggling to pay bills during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because of this food donation, we have been able to alleviate one of their most pressing needs for the time being: How to feed their families,” said Development Coordinator Amanda Strawn. “Just taking a little bit of this pressure off of them will go a long way towards their mental and physical health.”

Some of the donated food stayed with RACSB, which offered it to individuals receiving mental health and substance use disorder services and who are struggling to make ends meet. Many of these individuals have been affected by transportation issues, the closure of Kenmore Club, or the closures of schools which provided free and reduced meals, said Patricia Newman, mental health case management supervisor.

“It’s difficult to work on your mental health when you’re wondering where your next meal will come from,” Executive Director Jane McDonald Yaun said. “Because we are a community safety net, we work with many individuals who faced economic hardships even before the pandemic wreaked havoc on employment and finances. We are so grateful to be part of a community that comes together in such a palpable way to meet these needs. The church’s generosity and the community’s collaboration will feed thousands of local residents.”

For many of those residents, that effort came in the nick of time.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ food donation is a true blessing and we are indebted to that church and to the RACSB for procuring the shipment,” said Trish Vaughan, an FUMC volunteer. “We were literally down to only a few pantry bags left. The timing is amazing.”

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