Gotta’ Run: A sense of purpose and how you can help

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 12, 2020

Normally the local runners club would be focused on races and other active events this time of year. Between March and May, we had at least a dozen events scheduled. Local charities benefit financially, and our club members love planning and organizing the events.

My most recent Gotta’ Run column received supportive comments for the positive spin on the good side of the virus. Here is another in that series, describing a real and positive need in the community and an opportunity for many of you.

I received word that Rowan Helping Ministries needed volunteers to help serve many of their upcoming meals. The first need was for Saturday, April 4. Salisbury Rowan Runners took that date and looked for more. The usual civic groups and churches had decided to back away currently from a very enjoyable and rewarding contribution to RHM’s wonderful work. At the time, about 60% of the meals were without volunteers to prepare and serve. In the past, SRR has worked the meals in a much less worrisome time, before anybody even thought of catching a terrible virus. It was hard to find a slot to help due to the tremendous community support.

SRR has committed to serving all Saturday lunchtime meals in April. In a normal spring, we would have a group working races nearly every Saturday, so it wasn’t a big leap timewise to do this although the need and task involved were different. I asked for volunteers and got them quickly. A few more had questions about how we would meet the social distancing requirements.

I joined Adalie Harrison, Linda Sufficool and Luann Fesperman that first Saturday morning to serve 90 members of our community. Pizza from Little Caesar’s, an amazing fruit salad from Father and Son Produce and the incredible brownies of Amanda Lewis made the meal. All three of these suppliers went way beyond normal in giving us special pricing and pinpoint timing. Debbie Suggs Catering helped with this Saturday’s meal.

Harrison, 18, was the first to volunteer. One of the best athletes of any age in Rowan County, she said, “I like to help others, especially those that don’t have as much. Serving was a way to show strength over the virus.” Sufficool, a retired teacher from RCCC, quickly volunteered with, “It would be my honor and privilege to serve there again.” Fesperman, owner of the Trophy House and a former Rowan County athlete of the year, jumped onboard and then donated to the meal costs.

RHM Executive Director and SRR member Kyna Grubb said, “Rowan Helping Ministries is founded on community collaboration and volunteer service. In addition to our dedicated staff, we require a corps of volunteers to sustain our feeding programs. We have streamlined our services and added many new protocols to ensure physical distance and a safe environment for people to help people.”

New serving procedures at RHM allow for a streamlined process to safely ensure the correct social distancing while the meal was prepared and given to the clients. Meal trays were made ahead, about 10 at a time. Those using the trays ate in the cafeteria, two to a table. Styrofoam to-go trays were also prepared ahead for clients who didn’t want to enter the facility.

It took us about an hour to prepare the fruit salad with some of the season’s first watermelons, cantaloupes, bananas, grapes and strawberries, a process full of conversation and fun for all. Another hour to serve the meal and about 20 minutes to clean up completed the work. Proper safety practices were as promised and thankful clients, while farther away, were still appreciative.

Linda took prayer requests from the clients and we’ve shared those requests for follow-up. We’re already excited about Saturdays 3 and 4.

While it may appear that the RHM clients and members of our community were the recipients of a fine meal, the real gift was received by those SRR members who gave their time and talents to care for others. The need is huge, and you and your group can help. If willing, contact Betsy Warner, RHM volunteer manager, at 704-637-6838, ext. 112.