Serving our Neighbors: Groups join efforts to provide fresh food for all

Published 11:04 am Friday, April 7, 2023

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Everyone deserves to eat.

And while various groups have been providing food to Davie residents in need for years, a recent collaboration is taking the food to the people.

Fresh Hope, The Bridge at 197 Main in Cooleemee, the William R. Davie Food Ministry and Cooleemee Elementary Food Ministry joined forces to form, Serving our Neighbors.

They hope to reach even more people with fresh food – sometimes prepared and ready to eat – and sometimes vegetables and meats for families to cook at home.

“If this ministry only helps one person, it does our hearts good to know that we are making a difference,” said Doris, who volunteers at The Bridge and William R. Davie.

“Since 2020, several individuals, small groups and even couples have found that we don’t have to look far to find neighbors who could use a hand up to fill in the gaps,” said Julia Burazer of Fresh Hope. “Whether they live in what is referred to as a food desert (an area whre there are no nearby grocery stores), or an area where a car is required to get groceries or whether food assistance programs run out before new ones come in, there are families in our Davie community who benefit greatly from receiving some supplemental groceries each week.

Food comes from individuals, local grocery stores, and from gardeners. “Connecting donated foods from the grocery stores with neighbors in need is what Serving our Neighbors is all about,” Burazer said.

The collaboration got the attention of Jane Simpson, president of the Davie Community Foundation. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “This is so typical of Davie County; the community works together to help others in need.”

“Through the process of simply looking for how we could serve our communities during these times, many of us who might never have met otherwise have found meaning, purpose and connection through volunteering together,” Burazer said.

“The food ministry has become a passion of mine,” said Melissa, who volunteers at The Bridge and William R. Davie. “I love seeing our friends each week and seeing how receiving this healthy food is helping them. The relationships we have established are akin to family and I cannot imagine not having them in my life. It’s a blessing to us all.”

Jan Denton agreed.

“The gratitude that people express when ‘shopping’ shows me that we are making a difference in their lives. And it is not just about the food, but about the relationships,” Jan said. “I met a woman coming for food who wanted to learn to read and now, I have been tutoring her for over two years.”

Burazer said she was amazed at the number of people who have come out of the woodwork wanting to help. They may have an elderly neighbor, or knew of a family in their neighborhood struggling to provide fresh food.

“A few were aware that there were areas of Davie County where the need was somewhat greater,” she said. “As a result, food distributions were started.” First was at The Bridge on Thursday evenings, then at Cooleemee Elementary on Tuesdays, and most recently at William R. Davie Fire Dept. on Sunday evenings.

Food is donated by Publix in Clemmons, Lowes Foods in Bermuda Run, Vernon Produce in Winston-Salem and from local people willing to share. Gift cards have been received from Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter.

A variety of fruits and vegetables is usually available, bread, sometimes dairy and eggs, a variety of meats and some prepared foods. Smith Grove United Methodist Church stores the food prior to distribution, and volunteers come from the church.

The groups distributing the foods began collaborating in recent months, and decided to operate under the Serving our Neighbors umbrella.

“Stories began to emerge of the relationships and connections at each food distribution or visit to a family which went much further than simply giving out food,” Burazer said.

Amanda Bullard, her mother, Melissa Souther, and 10-year-old son, Harper, started the William R. Davie distribution. Her son now brings a friend for the Sunday afternoon of volunteering, and that friend has Sundays marked so he won’t miss a distribution.

“The friend recently told Harper that he’d rather volunteer with them over almost anything else he could be doing on a Sunday afternoon,” Amanda said.

“This is no longer simply a place to come pick up food on Sunday afernoon. These are our friends and neighbors. There is an older couple who come every week and they always pick out just a few things and then they get a few items to take to one of their neighbors who is a shut in. We miss them and are concerned if we don’t see them.

“We don’t have an application or ask a lot of questions. You don’t have to live in a certain place or have documents. We are here for our neighbors,” Amanda said.

Shana and Richard Bowles volunteer to pick up food from the grocery stores, and when possible, include their children, Brooke and Blake.

“Volunteering as a family is important to us because it teaches our kids to see us in a new role other than their parent,” Shana said. “It starts conversations about what our role in the community is and how we can invest in others. We love volunteering each week as we are reminded to plant seeds that hopefully others will come through and fertilize in ways we can’t.”

Blake, 12, is getting the idea. “It’s fun helping those in need and everyone has been so nice.”

The need continues, and so will the volunteers.

“ I feel we are only scratching the surface of reaching our neighbors with food insecurities,” said Sue Boggs, a volunteer from Smith Grove Methodist.

Volunteers can pick up foods, serve at a distribution center, driving a trailer, cook. Call or text Amanda at 336-671-4251 or Julia at 336-413-2701.

“We look forward to serving with you,” Julia said.

Julia Burazer provided the information used for this article.