Community partnerships bring smiles to area children

By: Tina Bryson

ONEIDA, Tenn. – For over a decade, Operation Sharing Tennessee (OST) has been working to distribute goods to local schools, food banks, churches, and other nonprofits. During the COVID-19 crisis, OST has received two refrigerated trucks full of food through their partnership with Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Operation Sharing in Paintsville, Kentucky.  

“Those truckloads contained items like lunchables and cheese which we provided to two of our local school systems and three food banks,” said Dawn Ellis, manager of Operation Sharing Tennessee. “The school systems were providing two meals a day to children while the schools are closed. Our partnership with CAP helps us provide support to other community organizations who then can get it into the hands of children and families in need.”

COVID-19 impacted the community just like all small Appalachian counties. Many had to rely on the help of others and organization like OST and CAP to be able to make ends meet.

“We have been partners with OST since the beginning, so we know the good work they do in making sure that the community gets what it needs,” said Ben Ridner, manager of Operation Sharing in Corbin, Kentucky. “We know that so many small communities have been hit extra hard with schools and businesses impacted by shutdowns. CAP’s partnership with Feed the Children allows us to receive donations from corporations like McDonalds and Oscar Mayer. We are glad to know that we can help in making the burden a little lighter to families trying to put food on the table.”

Ellis knows that she has a solid network of support right in the community as well. Appalachian Life Quality Initiative (ALQI), also a staple in the area, worked with OST to distribute toys and candy to local children.  

“We know that these uncertain times can be especially difficult for children, so the tractor trailer filled with toys and candy was intended to bring joy into their lives,” Ellis said. “The local schools added some with their daily meal drop off to students as an extra treat, and Clinch Powell Head Start made special deliveries to the homes of their students. The Boys and Girls Club of the Cumberland Plateau also were helped with this donation. We wanted to make sure that we brought as many smiles as we could to our children.”

Last month, OST and ALQI worked together to provide drive thru giveaways. Many people were laid off from their jobs and unemployment benefits had not started. At one drive thru event, more than 400 cars came through the line.  

“Partners like OST are getting calls daily from families and seniors needing food and other essential items like hand soap, hand sanitizer, diapers, and cleaning supplies. We work with our partners to provide things that the community may be having trouble finding in their local stores, or maybe can’t afford because of the shutdown,” Ridner said. “We are glad to help.”

Nonprofits are working together as well as churches, schools, and senior centers to meet the increasing needs of the community as states slowly start to reopen.  

“We are very blessed to partner with CAP,” Ellis said. “Without Operation Sharing we could not have stayed open during COVID-19 and would not have been able to help hundreds of families. We were only considered essential as long as we had food, drinks, toiletries and such to serve the community. Brian and his team made sure we had what we needed.”

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