Need Line provides drive-through service to supply food during pandemic

Murray-Calloway County Need Line volunteer Rick Steiner, left, and board member Martin Milkman load food into the trunk of a car on Wednesday during the agency's drive-through pickup. As vehicles pulled up for the pickup, Need Line board members and volunteers loaded the food so the drivers could avoid any physical contact so as not to potentially spread or contract COVID-19.

MURRAY – With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping many local residents at their homes and out of a job, Murray-Calloway County Need Line is working to help families needing assistance through the crisis.

Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday forcing all “non-life-sustaining” businesses in Kentucky to close by 8 o’clock tonight. The constant closures over the past two weeks have put many people out of work for the time-being, so Need Line has relaxed the paperwork requirements for clients needing access to the food pantry to prove their income levels.

Need Line board members and volunteers stood in front of the agency’s North Eighth Street headquarters from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday as vehicles pulled through the drive. In order to practice the social distancing recommended by health experts to slow the spread of COVID-19, the volunteers asked the drivers whether they wanted food placed in the back seat or trunk so they did not have to exit their vehicles or come inside the Need Line building.

“We’re trying to keep people apart (and volunteers are wearing) gloves and masks, rather than having clients to come in,” said Need Line Executive Director Tonia Casey. “This is just a whole lot safer and better for everybody.”

“We have three board members helping and all kinds of community volunteers. It has been an awesome day already,” Casey said shortly before 12:30 p.m. “We started at 11 and I knew we had enough prepared for 100 (families) today, and I already had to go inside to make more bags as it continues. I would like to do this again the first of April. What they’re receiving – as you can see, there’s a lot of food – is tenderloin, a couple of bags of chicken, potatoes, cheese, eggs, frozen eggs, and then we have some little packages of cleaning and hygiene products. We also have fruit and vegetables.

“It’s a lot of food and I tried to figure it up for it to last a family of four two weeks, maybe even longer. It depends on how much you eat. We’re doing it, No. 1, for the safety of everybody. No. 2, to help our families out. We’ve had so many who have had their businesses shut down. We’ve had families who are already low-income hurting (even more than usual). So we wanted to take some of that away from them.

“We also want people who do not have an automobile and who do not have any way to come (to the headquarters) to please call and we’ll take their name and address. We’ve had several different groups say they want to deliver the food, and my plan is for food to be delivered on Fridays to help the community.”

Casey said Need Line also is continuing to do casework during the pandemic crisis to help people pay their utility bills.

“We’re not letting anyone come in; we’re getting their information and then calling,” she said. “They give us their phone number and the caseworker will interview them and we’ll make a decision right then. So we’re still assisting that way too.”

Casey said donors and clients have been very understanding of all the changes Need Line has had to implement since the pandemic started. Besides barring public access to the building, those changes have included changing its hours of operation from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

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