Finding stability in Shell Knob
It’s been a year since COVID-19 turned our world upside down. The pandemic has proven to be an enduring crisis that we will continue to recover from for years to come, but within the hardship and loss, we have found hope for the days ahead.
People in the Ozarks came together with empathy and generosity to shine a bright light through the darkest of days. Our donors stepped up with gifts that allowed us provide more meals in our 28-county service area, the Missouri National Guard mobilized to help us get food out, and our hunger-relief partners quickly adapted their distribution models to continue feeding their communities.
Central Community UMC, a food pantry located in Shell Knob, quickly adjusted from a walk-in pantry to a drive-through distribution when the pandemic hit to continue providing meals. It’s the only church in the area that provides food assistance, so it was crucial that they stayed open, especially as the need for food assistance skyrocketed. The pantry is run completely by volunteers who are passionate about serving others.
“We went through some major changes to make sure everyone was taken care of and so we could keep up with the demand,” said Oleta, the pantry’s primary organizer. “Ozarks Food Harvest guided us through that process every step of the way to ensure we could continue distribution in our community effectively and efficiently.”
Shell Knob, home to about 1,000 people, was significantly affected when the pandemic hit. Many of the people who live there work in the food, resort or tourism industries, and when most of those businesses shut down last year and people stopped traveling to the area for vacation, the residents suffered.
“Quite a lot of people were laid off and in desperate circumstances. Income fell or became nonexistent for so many, and even now, they’re still having a hard time,” Oleta said.
Thankfully, the pantry remained open and distributed groceries to anyone who needed help, and they’re continuing to do so today. Ozarks Food Harvest has been supplying the pantry with additional produce, meat, dairy, bread and more to meet the increased need.
Cindy and her husband, both longtime residents of Shell Knob who suffer from preexisting health conditions, were able to find the help they needed during the pandemic. They continue to visit the pantry when they need a little extra help making ends meet. Cindy is extremely thankful for Central Community UMC’s ongoing care.
“There will always be ups and downs in life, but I’m thankful that I know the pantry is there when we need support,” she said.
Vaccine rollout is in full swing and our communities are taking steps toward recovery from the financial effects of the pandemic, but food insecurity will not vanish once the economy rebounds. After the Great Recession, it took nearly 10 years for food insecurity to return to pre-recession levels. We expect there will be lasting effects from the crisis for years to come.
Thankfully, people can find the support and care they need through Ozarks Food Harvest’s network of hunger-relief partners. Thank you for your continued compassion for neighbors across southwest Missouri.