Pastor Cole Meckle with Gather Church said the church is taking action to help the community by delivering boxes of food to those in need as well as attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19 by live streaming all of their church services on Facebook.
The Gather Church Cafe will still be serving food but each meal will be served in to-go containers.
“There are going to be a lot of additional folks seeking resources that don’t have anybody else to go shopping for them, so I want to make sure that word gets out that folks can call us even if they don’t fit into a category of poverty. If they just simply need somebody to get them resources because they don’t have anybody to they can ask us and we can help,” said Meckle.
Meckle said that the food bank serves about two tons of food every week and normally the church uses a “free market” kind of system where people choose what they need, but now the food will be pre-boxed and can be delivered to the individual or the family in need.
“I understand that some people feel like some of the state, community and government’s responses may be a little extreme or led by fear, but I believe this isn’t a fear response, I don’t feel afraid. I feel concerned for the needs of our most vulnerable populations as well as the health of our community at large. I want us to be able to work together to limit the risk and not be led by fear but be led by care and concern and love of neighbor,” said Meckle.
The church is working on an online sign-up system to coordinate a time and location to leave the box of food. In the meantime, individuals can call the church and leave a message with their location, what they need, and the size of the household.
“Anybody who is self-isolating or in quarantine, we will deliver the food box to them. We will bring it to their home or their apartment or their location,” Meckle said.
In order to limit the number of people in the Gather Cafe, Meckle said they are serving all meals in to-go containers and are asking those with a place to go to eat the meal at home. However, if people do not have a place to go they are welcome to stay and eat at the cafe, which has been rearranged to create more space between people.
“We are doing as much screening as we can of individuals that have symptoms and we are asking those that do have symptoms that they do not come in, which is a really difficult thing to do,” Meckle said.
The clothing bank is now operating using a sign-up sheet instead of having people line up, in an effort to limit the number of people in the space at one time.
The church works with programs such as Food Lifeline and the Lewis County Food Bank Coalition which are organizations that are working with Gather Church to ensure their food bank stays open and helps them create new systems for food delivery and distribution, Meckle said.
“Between everyone, I think we are going to be able to come up with some really great means to provide for the additional needs in our community,” Meckle said.
Gather Church has a childcare facility, licensed for 35 children, that has not been mandated to close at this point and Meckle said they are doing what they can to mitigate the risk and remain open.
The church has someone designated to do regular cleanings or high-touch surfaces and bathrooms of all facilities that are still open to the public.
“All of our work in the cafe, in the food and clothing bank and the work of our care navigators are the areas most significantly impacted but we are working to keep all of our services operational,” said Meckle.