Neighbor to Neighbor Disaster Relief Fund of East Tennessee Foundation Supports LTNP
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. Working together to support hunger relief, the Neighbor to Neighbor Disaster Relief Fund of East Tennessee Foundation and the Love Thy Neighbor Project (LTNP) at Tennessee Wesleyan University (TWU) have been able to support existing and new clients amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located on TWU’s main campus, LTNP is a food pantry functioning as a servant leadership outreach for the University. This program also operates mobile food pantries in different locations in McMinn County every month, as well as a Back Sacks program, which provides back packs full of shelf stable food to local food insecure children every week during the school year.
LTNP’s need for support substantially increased in 2020, as the number of families relying on the program increased and new challenges emerged in addition to the pandemic. In McMinn County, the unemployment rate grew from 3.6% in March 2020 to a high of 17.2% when COVID-19 reached the area. The rise in unemployment increased the numbers of clients relying on LTNP to provide food for their families. In addition, COVID-19 made it difficult not only locally, but also nationwide to locate essential food items.
Fortunately, the Neighbor to Neighbor Disaster Relief Fund of East Tennessee Foundation generously awarded LTNP with $5,000. This gift supported the program’s implementation of an electronic check-in system, as well as provided a significant amount of food, which our clients and community needed.
“Thank you to the Neighbor to Neighbor Disaster Relief Fund of East Tennessee Foundation for their significant support of TWU’s Love Thy Neighbor Project and the community both organizations serve,” said TWU President Dr. Harley Knowles. “We are proud to have a strong partnership with such an esteemed organization.”
With the support of the Neighbor to Neighbor Disaster Relief Fund of East Tennessee Foundation, LTNP eliminated its paper and pencil check-in system by purchasing three iPads (pictured at right). The iPads streamlined electronic communication between volunteers inside and outside the pantry, making the process of bringing food to clients more efficient. The devices are also easy to quickly sanitize, which is especially important when serving the public amid a contagious virus like COVID-19. The iPads also provide an element of sustainability, as after the pandemic is over, they will continue to streamline communications for the program. The integration of the iPads has not only dramatically improved the check in process, but also the program’s overall operations.
This generous funding also directly affected the program’s ability to provide service, as it was also utilized to ensure food stayed on the pantry’s shelves. The program’s need for food supplies is recurring, as is the increased demand resulting from COVID-19. This grant allowed LTNP to purchase enough food for the pantry to feed nearly 350 people bi-weekly for an entire year. Purchased items included cereal, pasta, frozen meats, canned meats, instant potatoes, drinks, and snacks.
“TWU has encountered tremendous community support throughout the years for the Love Thy Neighbor Project,” said TWU Assistant Vice President for Advancement Blake McCaslin. “However, at a time where we saw our community needing it more than ever, this support from East Tennessee Foundation was a huge blessing.”
To learn more about the impact of East Tennessee Foundation and the various programming they support, please visit www.easttennesseefoundation.org.