By Tyronda James
Clay Harris, founder of Uniting and Healing through Hope of Monroe County enlisted the help of many local church leaders, county legislators, police agencies and volunteers throughout Monroe County to bring unity and needed food to families in need for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Majority Leader Steve Brew and Legislature leaders Vince Felder and Ernest Flagler-Mitchell have joined Harris’s movement and vision. The ongoing effort has been supported by many church and community leaders throughout Monroe County.
“Uniting and healing through Hope Monroe County, we’re trying to do a wonderful thing for the community,” said Harris. “So that we can begin to unite and heal our community because there has been so much division and vitriol and hatred and we want to counter it with love.”
The food drive kicked off October 28, food donations are accepted through November 17, those interested can donate items to one of several drop-off locations accepted throughout Monroe County. Monetary donations are being accepted through November 20.
At a time when many people are looking forward to giving thanks this holiday season, there are many families who are entering this season with concerns over whether they will be able to feed their families. This need has only been intensified with the COVID pandemic.
Jennifer Dunivent, committee Chair member of United and Healing through Hope Monroe county said the pandemic has brought needs, especially food needs to many who have never had food needs. She said this need is not only present in the city neighborhoods, but those residing in the outskirts must be remembered as well.
“So, it’s critical that we don’t gloss over the suburbs. And the other areas where you typically would not think there was a high need in these times, there is the employment rate is as high as the suburbs, as well as it is here in the city,” said Dunivent.
“We want to make sure that we have a couple of distribution sites in each suburb and that we have volunteers connected with those with those sites to help support them.”
There will be various different distribution centers throughout Monroe County. Most of the distribution centers will be through churches, as well as through county agencies and neighborhood social service agencies.
Organizers are looking for donations, volunteers, as well as more organizations, community groups, businesses, as distribution sites.
There are specified items on the shopping list to make it easy, volunteers with Uniting and Healing through Hope will add the turkey or ham.
Dunivent says she understands that several community organizations who have similar programs in place and look to expand the current Thanksgiving meal program, support organizations who may not have the resources and educate the community as to where and how to access services.
“This is planting the seed in terms of reaching out to all of Monroe County, every town and every village, some towns are not represented yet. I’m going to call them out. We got a lot of towns so far, but we need a lot more. The bottom line is we need your support,” said Harris.
“And this is a representation, a microcosm of what we can do if we do it together.”
More information can be found at unitingthroughhope.com or the organization’s Facebook page at Uniting and Healing through Hope of Monroe County.
“We already have a situation of extreme poverty here in the city, then add COVID, a pandemic on top of that, and all the economic distress that’s caused along with it,” said Monroe County Legislator Vince Felder.
“It’s really a need for this right now and not just Thanksgiving, but all around the year. Hopefully, this is something we can continue to do.”