‘We cannot be more thankful’: Local food pantry increases efficiency due to grant

Updated: Feb. 9, 2021 at 7:07 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - Federal monies through the CARES Act are being put to good use at local food pantries across the area.

In November, Feed More received $1 million through the COVID-19 relief package. In turn, the non-profit agreed to match those funds to provide resources to its 270 food pantries in need. Of those food pantries, a little more than 100 applied for the grants through Feed More.

Food insecurity has only increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a major reason why Waymakers Foundation in Chesterfield was created.

What you see at 7122 Hull Street Road is a sign for Latin Tax Service where employees are certainly busy this season. However, in the back of the building are volunteers who are serving the community in a very different way.

“It’s just to help,” said Natasha Lemus, Executive Director of Waymakers Foundation. “To make sure they get the help they need, and they have somewhere they can come to, and feel comfortable and feel at home and get exactly what they need.”

Lemus helped create Waymakers Foundation in March 2020.

“They were calling our office for resources and the next day I just said ‘come to me,’” she said.

From that day the efforts grew into what is now known as Waymakers Foundation, currently helping roughly 200 families per week. The food pantry focuses on serving the Latino community across Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico.

“We have Tuesday, Thursdays, as well as Saturdays, where we have appointments only and they come in at the drive-thru,” Lemus said. “The families that can come, they get their groceries.”

Additionally, the foundation also makes deliveries on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“Those days are focused on receiving, loading and stocking and then we have a driver who goes out,” Lemus added. “That serves Henrico County. There’s a big issue of transportation for families, especially those ones who cannot leave – COVID deliveries. So, it’s essentially COVID deliveries but if families don’t have transportation, we go to them.”

Lemus also takes into account the culture of this community – families who have multi-generations under one roof.

“We pack food that will last them for 15 days,” she said. “I try to make sure they can make heavy meals and then light meals to get them through.”

“It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up,” said Anthony Johnson, Regional Manager at Feed More. “It’s a big encouragement to those families to know somebody is here not only to take care of one to two people but the family, the entire house.”

Those efforts have greatly increased due to a grant Waymakers got through Feed More. In November, Feed More received $1 million dollars through the CARES Act; the non-profit matched that amount to allow $2 million to be dispersed to its food pantries in need.

“I needed refrigeration because I was providing dry goods but I wasn’t providing meat, I wasn’t providing milk,” Lemus said. “So, one of the main things is having this and being able to store this properly and supply more families.”

In addition to new refrigerators, Waymakers also got two new freezers, new packing tables and other pieces of equipment.

“I cannot be more thankful,” Lemus said. “I cannot be more grateful of the assistance we have received from Feed More.”

“They’re really over the top,” Johnson said. “I call them my shining star agency.”

The next step for Waymakers is to try and find a larger location to continue its efforts.

“There’s a higher demand, not only through the pandemic but in general,” Lemus said. “I noticed we’re making a difference, but we need transportation to continue deliveries and a bigger space.”

Families wishing to be added to the support list through Waymakers can call or text (804) 920-0179.

Additionally, Johnson said more than 100 other food pantries in the 29 counties and five cities across the Commonwealth have also received their emergency grants.

“To fight hunger, we need help,” he said. “So we thank all of our agencies, all of our food pantries for their help.”

In January, New Hope Pantry received emergency funds to help purchase a new refrigerator truck after Feed More employees saw NBC12′s story about the unexpected situation the pantry encountered.

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