The good stuff: Locals coming together to feed children during Coronavirus quarantine

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Foreeta Yarbrough, Renee Ransom and Shunta Glass are pictured with lunch bags they’ve been working to distribute to local children after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shut schools down last week. Photo by Echo Day

It’d been a long day for Renée Ransom who, with friends Shunta Glass and Foreeta Yarbrough, had packed lunches and fed nearly 100 children.

The three women sat in the fellowship hall at Collins Chapel C.M.E. – Yarbrough said Pastor Marie Bonds welcomed them to use the facility to distribute food – quietly waiting for the last few people to stop by. And as they waited, they shared how a few people can band together and become the silver lining of a dark cloud.

On March 13, Tipton County Schools announced the district would be closed the week of March 16-20 – in addition spring break the following week – to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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Many of Tipton County’s students are on the free and reduced lunch program, especially in Covington, and count on the USDA-funded feeding program for breakfasts, lunches and a meal after school. Some attend the Boys and Girls Club, but that program had to close as well.

“Friday when they sent the kids home it kinda touched me a little bit,” Ransom said. “I don’t have any kids that’s in school, I have a son that’s 30 and I have a son that’s 19, but it was on my heart.”

The next morning, Ransom felt a calling. Feeding children during the school closure was on her heart when she woke up and it was still on her heart when she returned home from a cleanup at church.

“I didn’t say anything to anyone, nobody at St. Stephens, I just kept cleaning up. When I got home I told my husband what had been bothering me. I just told him, ‘It’s bothering me that those kids are gonna be out of school and their parents didn’t know.’ I told him that I would like to take on one day, 50 lunches. We’re not gonna ask nobody for nothing, we were just going to do it.”

One day and 50 lunches turned into so much more.

“I called on Shante, Shante called on Ms. Yarbrough, and here we are.”

Ransom works the early shift at Covington’s McDonald’s. She has to be at work at 3:30 a.m. each day and when she returns home, the three women get busy with setting up to give lunches away.

When they’re finished distributing each day, they get organized for the next day, which means going through donations and doing as much preparation as possible. Ransom has been staying up until 10:30 p.m., sleeping until 1:30 a.m. and getting up to do it all over again.

Most people would be weary, but she is not.

“I’m not really tired because it’s for a good cause. When it’s for a good cause you don’t get tired. I’m just so blessed.”

From Monday to Tuesday, the number of children they fed doubled.

“We went from 50 lunches yesterday to 100 lunches today,” Ransom said. “The kids are coming in a steady stream. We just wanted to give back. We didn’t ask for no money, we just asked for donations from our community.”

They’ve received donations from many people in the community, from the mayor and aldermen to small business owners, friends and neighbors. Donations can be dropped off at 427 Peete Street.

“We have been so blessed, so blessed, so blessed,” Glass said.

“I come home from work and there’s stuff sitting on my porch,” Ransom added. “It’s just sitting there. Nothing but blessings.”

You could liken it to the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, where two loaves and five fish fed a whole crowd.

“It’s been a community effort,” said Yarbrough, who works for Seedco. “She had a family drive all the way from Drummonds, so it’s not just Covington, it’s Tipton County.”

That family returned for several days. The daughter left an impression.

“The little girl asked, ‘Are you going to be here tomorrow?’ I told her we would be here all week and she said, ‘I love you,'” Ransom said, blinking back the emotions. “My heart was hurting but I didn’t want to let her see a tear drop. There are people out there who genuinely need help right now. They need help.”

The sack lunches consist of a sandwich, chips, a snack and a piece of candy. They are asking for help with chips, drinks and individually-wrapped snacks, like cookies, applesauce and fruit snacks.

“If anybody works at Charms and they want to donate candy, we’ll take that, too.”

The effort is all about supporting a community in a time of crisis.

“These kids really do need (food),” Glass said. “Their parents didn’t know they’d be out and they’re wondering ‘How am I going to feed my kids?'”

Friday they’re hoping to have someone available who can help pray with the children. They’re not sure how long they’ll continue providing lunches, but it’s been a labor of love.

“My heart is for kids, to see kids happy,” Ransom said. “Nobody should be hungry. Not a child. An adult can be hungry, but not a child.”

As they wrap up the day’s event, their message of goodwill is clear: a few people can make a big difference.

“It doesn’t take much,” said Ransom, “it’s just been us three and just a little simple lunch.”