JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind - Young volunteers are stepping up at a central Indiana food pantry as older volunteers are being asked to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Carol Phipps, manager of InterChurch Food Pantry of Johnson County, says 80-percent of the pantry’s volunteers are considered high-risk for COVID-19 due to age or health conditions. Most of the older volunteers are retirees who would like to continue serving at the pantry but are being advised to stay home.
“Last weekend, I asked our volunteers that are at risk, either due to age or health conditions, to remain home safely,” Phipps said.
Since then, Phipps has been calling on young people in the community to fill the volunteer gap.
“We’ve been aggressively recruiting younger volunteers and we’ve had an outpouring from the community,” Phipps said.
Since reaching out to the community, Phipps says she has received responses from high school students, college students and other young adults who want to help. Since so many students are at home right now, many have the time to contribute.
During normal times, Franklin Community High School freshman Alicia Selig would have spent Wednesday in class, looking forward to spring break starting Friday. Instead, she spent the day at the pantry, helping to prepare food for distribution.
“I have older people in my family that are also staying home,” Selig said. “So it just feels nice that I can come out here and help so they can just rest at home.”
Other young adults see this time as an opportunity to take care of their older neighbors while serving those in need at the same time.
“A lot of us are itching to do something and we want to know how we can give back,” said volunteer David Wheatley. “So this was an easy way, a really tangible way that you can see being a part of something good here.”
“Wanted to get out of the house, be a part of something larger than myself, and do what I can to help out with the community,” said volunteer Anthony Gregory.
“If we’ve been blessed with good health and the ability to come in here and to help and serve, we’ve got to do it,” Wheatley continued. “And we’ve had a lot of fun doing it too.”
As Hoosiers are hunkering down and many businesses are slowing or stopping work altogether, Phipps says the need for food is greater than ever. InterChurch Food Pantry has made several changes in order to continue their service while also taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
Food recipients are no longer allowed to come inside to shop for food. Instead, the pantry has set up a drive-thru pickup system where recipients can take home pre-boxed bundles of food. The pantry is also relaxing rules on serving people from outside Johnson County and allowing people to pick up food more than once per week.
“It helps us a lot because I hardly have any food and this makes it good,” said food recipient, Sharlyn O’Bryan.
“I really need what they can give to the people out here,” said recipient Darlene Clemenshaw. “And I appreciate it.”
InterChurch Food Pantry of Johnson County is located at 211 Commerce Drive in Franklin. The pantry is now closed on Saturdays but is maintaining a distribution schedule of Monday through Friday, Noon until 3 p.m.
Anyone interested in sighing up to volunteer can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org