Providing Food and Hydration to Students in Walker County Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
The Salvation Army of Walker County, AL has assisted the Walker County, Marion, Winston, Coleman, Marshall, and Blunt communities throughout the pandemic by helping with rent and utility payments, delivering meals to the elderly, and grocery services, but the most unique service that this corps has provided during the pandemic is partnering with the Jasper County School System to provide snacks and hydration to students who are without water. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, all school water fountains are off-limits, leaving many students who do not bring water dehydrated throughout the school day.
“We have a relationship with the school district, so I reached out to see what could be done for students doing the pandemic. It’s great to be able to help our neighbors,” stated Cynthia Smith, Walker County Service Center Director.
Nearly 87% of students are below the poverty level and have zero percent parent participation. After a Stuff the Bus school supply drop off, Smith asked what The Salvation Army could do to assist these children in need. The school principal asked for the Army to provide water and juice to students. Teachers have provided these supplies in the past, but it gets expensive over time. The Salvation Army received a grant to provide the school with hydration and snacks for the entire school year. Water delivery services began in October 2020, and hundreds of cases have been delivered to schools since then.
“If there’s a problem, there’s a solution.”
During Covid-19 isolation, students at Maddox Intermediate School in Jasper County had to bring the proper paperwork to schools to enroll for online learning. One of the students confided in the school librarian, Molly Bailey, informing her that she didn’t have food at home. Bailey, a United Way Spokesperson for Jasper County, called The Salvation Army and told Smith about her student’s situation.
“If there’s a problem, there’s a solution. I called Ms. Cindy [Cynthia Smith], and she immediately told me to go to Suns Grocery in Jasper and get that baby and that family whatever they need food-wise. No questions asked. It gives me the chills just thinking about this,” Bailey shared.
Bailey and another teacher grocery shopped for the student’s family and delivered the groceries to the child’s home. The confidentiality stays there so that the child doesn’t receive backlash for letting someone know that they need food.
“That teacher and I filled up two grocery buggies with groceries. We were thorough and thought through what we should get for the mom and her two daughters. We were able to feed this family for weeks and help the mom get back on her feet. We couldn’t have done that without Ms. Cindy and The Salvation Army. The mom didn’t ask for groceries, but it was the right thing to do,” Bailey stated.
Bailey signed up to volunteer with The Salvation Army during COVID-19 and became a regular volunteer.
“We built a rapport with the Salvation Army and ended up turning to them to partner to help our school systems provide water for students,” Bailey stated.
“I got my role of United Way spokesperson through volunteering with the Salvation Army. Ms. Cindy is a huge blessing to all of Walker County, whether we notice it or not. She does what she can to help those around her. No matter who they are., if she sees a need, she’s going to help or find someone who can. If we know there’s a need with students, we will help them,” Bailed added.
“There’s just so much that The Salvation Army does.”
The Walker County Service Center also partners with The Children’s Advocacy Center for abused kids. Comfort food provided by The Salvation Army helps these kids who have dealt with trauma to open up and become more welcoming to receiving help. The Army also helps Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), where students in foster care go for a safe place to visit with potential adoptive parents. These kids are also entered into the Angel Tree Program so that they can receive gifts for Christmas.
“That’s something they don’t have in their budget, but we do. So the organization comes to us for comfort food for their programs to help make the kids comfortable,” Smith stated.
“All of the kettles add up and it all helps.”
“I tell my funders that we’re blessed. Everyone has a role that God puts them in. For many, their role is the funder. It comes down to the journey of that donation. We’re on the front line. We see the donations and exactly how far every dollar goes when paired with other donations and how they help others. It’s huge. It all starts with the giving,” Smith stated.
“Partnerships are huge within our community. As we partner with other agencies, we can reach so many more people within our communities, but it all starts with that donor. If they didn’t do it, we couldn’t do what we do. For instance, with kettles. Many people think they are just sticking a little bit of change in it, but that change adds up. Last year, my granddaughter requested to add a kettle to her school. She and her classmates rang the bell upfront at their school for one week. At the end of that week, they’d raised $600 plus dollars in change from one small elementary school. That taught those kids what it means to give. You’re never too young to start giving, and you’re never too young to start volunteering. You can make a difference.
“All of the kettles add up, and it all helps. You figure out a way to make it happen, and you don’t stop. Our social services have not stopped since Covid-19 began, and that’s what you do. That’s what our mission is. That’s what we’re here for. You don’t stop when you’re tired; you stop when the job’s done, and it’s not done yet,” Smith added.