Caring Hearts uses Drive-thru model to get food to over 900
BILL McMILLEN, The Daily News Apr 4, 2020
BULLHEAD CITY — Betty Rae described Friday’s drive-through food distribution at Rotary Park as “organized chaos.”
She also described it as an outreach to people in need in “unusual and uncertain” times.
“I’m very pleased that we were able to get food out to more than 900 families,” said Rae, CEO and executive director of Caring Hearts Food Ministry, which conducted the massive emergency food distribution, delivering produce, canned, packaged and dried goods for three hours on Friday.
More than 900 vehicles slowly navigated serpentine routes through the park to pick up emergency food supplies provided by the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rae said that 29,000 pounds of food were distributed in the drive-through format designed to protect the volunteers and the clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers loaded the food — some in boxes, some in bags — into vehicles. Those picking up food were instructed to remain in their vehicles, keep their windows rolled up and show identification through their windows. Because the USDA was involved, identification was required for record-keeping purposes. During Caring Hearts’ typical Without Waste Mobile Food Pantry distributions, no identification is necessary.
“We had 816 emergency food boxes,” Rae said, describing the contents as containing some combination of fruit, vegetables, beans, rice, canned goods and other food items.
Distribution was based on the size of the household; families with children got more food with a greater emphasis on nutritional meal preparation.
“We did our best with what we had,” Rae said. “We had food for about 800 households; we were able to stretch it to about 920 households.”
The food ministry also made deliveries to 49 households, existing clients who are homebound or lack transportation. The Bullhead City Meals on Wheels program provided the transportation for those deliveries.
The city also provided volunteers. Rae said a few of Caring Hearts’ usual volunteers were unable to attend, leaving a void that the city filled with about 10 people who were part of a nearby Census 2020 initiative.
“We usually have about 40 to 45 (Caring Hearts) volunteers,” Rae said, “but we only had about 35 show up. The Parks Department and city provided us about 10 personnel.”
With the Bullhead City Police Department on hand to help control traffic and respond to any emergencies if needed, vehicles wrapped around the intersection of Riverview and Lakeside drives well before the distribution opened. By 11:30 a.m., vehicles stretched from the closed Balboa Drive park entrance to the Lakeside Drive entrance that was being used. There, vehicles were split into two lines, one entering the park at that location and the other entering the park at Chaparral Drive.
Traffic was bumper-to-bumper but orderly as the lines slowly moved to the distribution area in the parking lot of the Rotary Park boat launch.
“People were very patient, very accommodating,” Rae said.
And, she noted, they came from all walks of life.
Some, she said, have been impacted economically with the loss of jobs.
“I saw some people who I recognized ... casino employees, workers from other businesses that have been closed,” she said.
Another segment was people who have had difficulty finding some food items at the stores or who have been cautious about going to public places where the virus might spread.
“There are so many people ... and so many different needs for different reasons,” Rae said. “I’m really happy that we could reach so many of them.”
Rae said she hopes the next scheduled drive-through distribution, April 17, will be more efficient because of what was learned by Friday’s “first run.”
“We’re going to have more adminstrators and, hopefully, more volunteers,” she said. “We’re going to have more traffic direction in place.
“We made some improvs, a few quick changes,” she added. “We learned some things that we think we can make it better.”
After clearing the food distribution area, Bullhead City residents were directed to another parking lot near the Balboa Drive entrance — which was the exit during the distribution. There, they received from city volunteers a “swag bag” and a reminder to take part in the Census 2020.
The bag, accompanied with some Southern Maid donuts, included snacks, Census information and promotional products and a rare commodity — two rolls of toilet paper.
“Remember to fill out your census questionaire, if you haven’t already,” City Manager Toby Cotter said over a public address system. “Make Bullhead City count.”