After months of preparation, the Voluntary Action Center will serve its first dinners on Tuesday as part of its highly-anticipated dinner meal program. Hot meals will be served every Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. as part of the program, with a second night of meals to be added in October.
“We’re so excited to finally do this. It’s a blessing for us. It’s a blessing for the clients and the folks who come out and serve. The volunteers for our lunch program love it and look forward to doing it,” said Executive Director Stacy Long. “Our goal is to make sure no one in Gordon County goes hungry, and providing dinner is going to make a big difference.”
Long said those seeking meals will be asked to check in at the VAC office. They will then receive a special card that they can exchange for a dinner plate. For now, all meals will be to-go in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, but she said the center hopes to start serving in the dining room soon.
VAC employees and board members will be prepping and serving to-go plates to clients on Tuesday, however the center is actively looking for volunteer groups and organizations to help with cooking and serving in the coming months. So far, four churches — Trinity Baptist Church, Belmont Baptist Church, Rock Bridge Community Church and Calhoun First United Methodist — have agreed to take on the task for a day or more every month.
“We would love to get more groups who are committed to that one day a month,” Long said. “We’re especially looking for a group that can volunteer on the first and fifth Tuesdays in September.”
Volunteer groups can opt in at different levels of involvement. Some choose to purchase food and ingredients, cook the food, serve the meals and do clean up afterward. Others choose to come in and cook a meal with ingredients provided by the VAC, serve the meal and provide clean up. Others choose to come in, heat up a meal cooked by VAC employees, serve the meal and clean up afterward. All of these different ways of getting involved are greatly appreciated, Long said.
“In a nutshell, volunteers come in, they heat the meal up or cook it, put it in plates and hand it to the folks who are coming in to eat. We ask that they clean up afterward, but that’s it,” she said. “We want this to be as easy as possible for our volunteers.”
Those interested in volunteering should contact Long at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The roll-out of the VAC’s dinner program was made possible thanks to donations made to the center since January. In particular, Long credited the anonymously-funded $25,000 match grant that began in May with providing a large chunk of the funding necessary to get the initial phase of the program off the ground.
“We are so thankful and appreciative of the support, both from our donor and the community,” Long said. “Everyone who made a contribution made a difference for families here in the county.”
Included in that matching grant was a $5,000 donation from myDOCTORplan.
“myDOCTORplan’s generous donation will help ensure individuals and families continue to receive support through our hunger and homeless outreach programs. Together, with other donations like myDOCTORplan’s, we were able to raise $60,000, $10,000 more than our original goal,” said Long.
The VAC is located at 343 S. Wall St. in Calhoun. Dinners will be served on Tuesday, beginning at 5 p.m.