The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are creating some daunting challenges for Stanly County Christian Ministry (SCCM). These include increases in food insecurity caused by lost or reduced incomes as well as shortages of volunteers brought on by stay-at-home orders.
Fortunately, Pfeiffer University has been able to help the ministry weather this storm in three ways:
- Over each of three successive Saturdays between March 28 and April 11, several students and staff members prepared and served lunches at one of SCCM’s two Community Table locations in Albemarle.
- Dr. Dawn Lucas, the Dean of Teaching Learning and Innovation at Pfeiffer, shot portrait photos of several families as part of a national effort called #TheFrontStepsProject; instead of paying Lucas for the photos, the families made donations totaling $1,285 to SCCM, and several of Lucas’ students have created similar projects that address community needs.
- The university has organized a campus drive until May 11 for canned goods that can be donated to SCCM as the spring semester concludes and the last students on campus move out of their dorms. Items can be dropped off outside of Room 103 in the Stokes Student Center.
“We are incredibly grateful for Pfeiffer helping us,” said Jenny Clore, the development director for SCCM. “Our mission at SCCM is to provide love and support to our neighbors in need. Pfeiffer’s willingness to step up in this chaotic and uncertain time allowed us to continue to show this love and support to our neighbors.”
A little background: On Saturdays, volunteers from area churches usually prepare and serve lunch to SCCM clients as part of its Community Table program. Recently, though, many haven’t been able to do so because they are largely elderly and at high risk of catching the Coronavirus.
Enter Rev. Douglas A. Hume Ph.D., who chairs Pfeiffer’s Department of Religion, and Regina Simmons, the director of student life at Pfeiffer. They’re both also on SCCM’s board and organized a contingent of volunteer servers from Pfeiffer that included Hume; Reba Poplin, Pfeiffer’s accounts receivable manager; and three students. Sodexo, Pfeiffer’s food service provider, generously supplied 100 lunches for one of the Saturdays. The students were Wendy Hopkins, Lashonna Geter, and Deshona Rogers.
“I decided to assist Mr. Hume without hesitation,” Hopkins said. “This request for assistance was not for something trivial, but rather more like a plea for the people who are in need for what might be the only good meal they get that day. If I were in this situation, I would hope there were people willing to assist in any manner.”
Participants at each of the Saturday lunches proceeded with COVID-19 realities in mind. The servers prepared meals and distributed them in carry-out boxes to about 90 clients, each of whom observed social distancing guidelines as they lined up to take them. The servers wore gloves, donned masks, and used hand sanitizer. They also cleaned up after the lunch ended, which made for a three-hour time commitment.
As for #TheFrontStepsProject, this effort began in Needham, MA, and now involves numerous photographers across the country who aim to “bring us together virtually despite (our) being - and maybe feeling - isolated.” Lucas shot photos over three weeks, maintaining a safe distance from her subjects. The money raised will help SCCM purchase sorely needed food for its pantry (in March alone, Clore said, household visits to SCCM’s pantry jumped by 111 percent). It will also provide financial support to SCCM clients who have found themselves with reduced income due to COVID-19.
“I chose SCCM (as the beneficiary) because I knew the money would help local families in need during these difficult times,” Lucas said. “The fact that I knew the money would stay local and that SCCM was working to put food on people’s tables during this time was very important to me.”
Lucas’ photography project has had something of a ripple effect:
She co-teaches a course called UNIV 275 Leadership and Professionalism. Before COVID-19 forced the course’s students to go online, they had been planning a group leadership project on campus that sought to “see a need, fill a need.” Since going online, the students have shifted to pursuing individual leadership projects with a similar purpose in each of their communities.
“My photography project had an unintended outcome in that I was able to share with students a real life leadership project in action,” Lucas said. “Several reported that example allowed them to think differently about their projects.”
So far, the projects that Lucas’ students have come up with range from helping enable prayer and motivational groups operate online to assisting elderly neighbors with daily tasks (with all safeguards in place). The students have also made masks, prepared relief bags for elderly neighbors and church members, and offered virtual tutoring to school-aged children on how to use electronic devises as tools for learning.
Mya Smith ’21, a biology major from Memphis, has committed to helping an elderly couple in her neighborhood with such tasks as walking their dog, running errands and doing household chores.
“I hope this project minimizes the workload the couple has,” she said.
Ashley Sheley ’22, a nursing major from Rockwell, has had the children of Carolina Family Church make cards for the seniors she cares for in a nursing home. These people aren’t allowed to have any visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cards “bring some joy to their lives,” Sheley said. “This project is important to me because as I take care of them, and I have seen how this current situation has affected them. It’s heartwarming to see them smile when they get the cards and display them in their rooms.”
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.