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United Way of Anderson County coordinates collaborative response to COVID-19

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the United Way of Anderson County had collected 50 percent of the commitments made during its annual fundraising campaign. Unlike campaigns past, this year’s collections will go to agencies that are providing frontline assistance in Anderson County, according to United Way President & Chief Executive officer Carol Burdette.

“This time we’ll be taking care of basic needs like food and shelter,” Burdette said. “We want to be sensitive to the most pressing needs brought about by COVID-19.”

United Way volunteers and partners have received and distributed more than 30,000 pounds of food over the past few weeks. The agency’s COVID-19 Response also has received more than $55,000 in donations – which has been equally distributed among 10 partner agencies, and coordinated distribution of about 700 masks, Burdette said.

Food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens across the country have reported a 40 percent increase in demand as a result of the coronavirus outbreak at a time when less food is being donated and volunteers are staying home. Burdette said United Way has experienced a 500 percent increase in calls to its 211 Helpline, with callers asking, “Where do I get food?”

Acting as a conduit, United Way accepts contributions of canned goods, frozen meals, prepared foods and snack foods, then matches the donation to the organization best suited for distribution.

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are that Carol Burdette and United Way stepped up to lead this collaborative effort to make sure that there is food available to feed under-resourced families in our community during this crisis,” said Kristi King-Brock, executive director of Anderson Interfaith Ministries.

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Partner agencies participating in the COVID-19 response in Anderson County include Good Neighbor Cupboard, Anderson Emergency Soup Kitchen, The Salvation Army Anderson, Senior Solutions, AIM: Accept. Inspire. Minister., Meals on Wheels-Anderson, South Main Chapel & Mercy Center, The LOT Project and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.

“We’re feeding about 80 to 100 individuals every day – Monday through Friday,” said Brenda Vandermey, a volunteer with the Anderson Emergency Soup Kitchen. “These extra, unexpected donations really are helping us meet the needs as the people keep coming.”

Working from a warehouse at Second Harvest Food Bank in Williamston, United Way volunteers also have been putting together snack packs for more than 800 children in Anderson County.

“The last delivery of our weekend snack packs was the Friday before schools shut down.” Burdette said. “We’ve been using a portion of the donations to supplement what our school districts are doing to provide meals for children during the week.”

Through United Way’s Weekend BackPack SnackPack Program, teachers and counselors at all elementary schools in Anderson County identify children who are at the greatest risk of falling into the Weekend Meal Gap – two days when the school lunch programs are not available and the children have little or nothing to eat. The program provides needy children with meals to take home on Fridays.

As unemployment continues to rise due to the coronavirus pandemic, United Way of Anderson will begin concentrating on programs that assist Anderson County residents in paying rent and utilities, Burdette added.

Want to help?

You can donate food and hygiene products to Second Harvest Food Bank at 311 Alliance Parkway Williamston, SC 29697. Hours for drop off are 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You can make monetary donations by texting STRONGERUNITED to 443-21 or click here to donate securely online.

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