Area businesses in Walnut Cove came together and served East Stokes Outreach Ministry volunteers at their annual volunteer appreciation luncheon held at First Baptist Church on Tuesday.
The event has been organized by Angie Bailey of Walnut Ridge Assisted Living for the past five years.
“I noticed last year that a lot of the volunteers came early and instead of just sitting down and enjoying the meal, they went to work. I know it’s in their nature, but I wanted them to be served. I reached out to some of our leaders in the community and they were excited to be part of this. It was their way of saying thank you.”
The 136 volunteers at East Stokes Outreach Ministry keep the doors open, according to executive director Marchelle Brown.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said. “We have a number of volunteers who have been with us for more than 20 years. They have big hearts and genuinely love people.”
In 2016 the ministry helped 3,956 families and nearly 11,000 individuals in eastern Stokes County with basic necessities such as food and clothing.
On Tuesday morning, before the luncheon, Brown and local volunteers assisted 34 families in dire need.
“This time of year is when the panic starts to set in. Families realize that children will soon be home and won’t be getting free breakfast and lunch. People will be dropping in for the holidays and they know food will be tight. On top of that, parents want to provide gifts for their children, but it’s a stretch to heat their home. It’s a difficult time for a lot of people.”
East Stokes Ministry is one of three food pantries and outreach facilities in Stokes County and serves between 875 to 950 families each month.
“We can purchase food through Second Harvest for .19 a pound and we usually average anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 pounds per month. We also purchase from area grocery stores and in total it can cost around $8,000 a month.”
Brown said monetary contributions go furthest, but donations to the thrift store also help those in need.
“I think that’s what makes it so unique. I can have an elderly person come in to get assistance and still feel like they’re giving back because they’ll tell me they brought a small bag of clothes to donate. They’re helping in ways they can and there’s still pride and honor in that.”
As a staple in the community for more than 25 years, Brown said volunteers have helped make East Stokes Outreach what it is today.
“We have a lot of people that come in just to see a friendly face or have a conversation. They need a pat on the back and our volunteers do that. It’s a safe place where people are always welcome.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.