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Today More Than Ever: Volunteers Brave Virus Exposure To Feed The Hungry

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The Rev. Sam Burleson evoked the Holy Spirit and prayed over all the chaos and fear of the coronavirus outbreak thanking God for the more than 40 volunteers who showed up to distribute food, but Anita Behrns may have gotten off the best prayer when she said in gratitude, "Today more than ever."

Behrns and her husband Richard are among the head knockers at the Washburn Community Outreach which has recently fed thousands through its food bank.

She said she does it, "Because I love people." She also said the food is doubly important because grocery stores are under such stress with the virus crisis.

Burleson, who pastors Salem United Methodist Church in Bostic, recently made an appeal through an online worship service for volunteers to staff the long tables at South Mountain Christian Camp which distribute a tractor-trailer load of food from Second Harvest Metrolina Food Bank in Charlotte.

The next truck will be unloaded April 24.

There were a lot of inspiring volunteers. The Rev. Lisa Moore showed up with volunteers from the two United Methodist congregations she serves, Wells Spring and Pleasant Grove. Nine men from Pilgrims Pathway House of Refuge, a ministry for recently released prisoners, showed up and loaded boxes and handed out food.

Cars lined up for hundreds of yards, many containing representatives of more than one family.

John Dale said, "I just don't get enough income to get by." He said there's too much month left at the end of the money. He said of the food truck, "This really helps."

One woman said she preferred to remain anonymous, but agreed with Dale that there simply is not enough money to pay for food and meet other bills.

Tom Hawkins said he recently moved "Back here from Florida. I love the new dog park in Forest City. I like that they have one for big dogs and one for little dogs. My philosophy is that people shouldn't take food like this unless they need it, but my income is not sufficient. Every little bit helps."

Linda Hill said, "I just really need this food. If it wasn't for this, I don't know what I would do."

Among the volunteers, Jerome Hill said, "This is something I can do for the neighborhood."

"I know there's a need, especially right now," volunteer Dana Bradley said, and added, "You don't want anybody to be without food."

Behrns said the program is about four years old. Volunteers have unloaded the truck, loaded boxes, handed out food in rain, snow, and other weather extremes. First in line recipients often wait as long as four hours. The line of cars stretches across the sprawling summer camp grounds like a snake.

The March 30 delivery served 240 families which comprised 716 individuals, 300 of whom were children and 166 senior citizens.

Efforts the week before were based at the Washburn Community Outreach building. Over a three-day effort, Washburn served 425 families, representing 1165 individuals. Behrns said the earlier service had been about equally divided among children, adults, and senior citizens.

The food is also available to the disabled. People are often seen picking up food while standing in line with walkers.

Anybody who receives what used to be called food stamps, and are now called SNAP cards, qualifies for the food. Retired teacher Becky Hunt Carson handles the paperwork and said one man had a van full of people and appealed for help for 13 families.

"We just can't do that, but we gave him as much as we could," Carson said.

Behrns said a number of local ministries are limiting their services because of the virus crisis, so every effort is even more vital to people in need. She became emotional thanking the large turnout of volunteers who traditionally hold hands in a prayer circle before they get started, but stood six-feet apart as they prayed with Rev. Burleson.

In addition to volunteers recruited by Revs. Moore and Burleson, Behrns thanked RHI's Jill Miracle for sending volunteers, including award-winning journalist Jean Gordon.

Scott Stone directed traffic despite a recent knee replacement. Behrns offered to bring him a stool, but he declined. Mary Lynch, Bob Billingsley, Karen Hall, Tom Hutchins, Ann Boykins, Jeffrey Littlejohn and Colby Behrns are among the cadre of faithful volunteers. Greta Harris was there with her children, Blake, Addie, and Amelia, as was Casey Hunter Keto.

Rutherford County has a 19 percent poverty rate and in recent weeks has seen record applications for unemployment.

In Matthew 25, Jesus acknowledges those who feed the hungry. When asked, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?" Jesus replies, "In as much as you have done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me."

Donations to Washburn Community Outreach can be sent to 2934 Piney Mountain Church Rd, Bostic, NC 28018.

South Mountain Christian Camp was founded by former Eastern Airlines Pilot O.A. Fish and his wife, Charlotte.

Donations to South Mountain Christian Camp can be sent to PO Box 9, Bostic, NC 28018

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