A lot has changed at Angels and Sparrows since the COVID-19 crisis hit our community and Governor Cooper announced the Stay at Home order effective March 30th.
Angels and Sparrows immediately experienced a surge in the number of guests in need. Some who only needed our services occasionally, suddenly needed us daily. Initially, families arrived with wary expressions on their faces while children screamed gleefully in their cars at the prospect of staying home from school. This quickly changed to long lines of cars with parents anxiously awaiting their meals and children quietly observing the discussions between their parents and our staff regarding needs which ranged from groceries, to gas money, and more recently the fear of not being able to catch-up paying for rent - and the potential for eviction. New families experiencing loss of hours at work, furlough, or unemployment for the first time, joined those who already depended on us to make ends meet.
Our process changed too. We were forced to modify how we serve our guests from café style to a drive-up format to accommodate the need for social distancing and the tremendous increase in numbers being served. We began delivering meals and groceries to our at-risk, homebound seniors. We noticed more families carpooling, households consolidating to help reserve the little funds left, and the need for home delivery began to include not only homebound seniors, but also families who lost access to transportation due to the inability to pay for gas or bus fare.
However, here’s what did not change. YOU, the community stepped up as you always have when you heard our resources had been depleted by the surge in need and our necessity to pivot and provide more food than ever. Your families came early in the morning or joined the long lines of those receiving meals to drop off groceries – many of which were used the very day you dropped them off. Still more of you donated online, allowing us to fill the gaps among the food received and what we still needed.
And, here’s something else that did not change – the love and care with which we serve our guests. A command center of volunteers who could no longer serve in person due to health risks began calling guests at home to check on them. New volunteers joined our team to help us sort food, put together boxes of groceries, or hand out meals – sometimes in the blistering heat and lately in the pouring rain. YOU, the community, are the heroes who enable us to show our neighbors in need that we not only care, but we care deeply.
Your donations enabled us to handle a 91% surge in need compared to last year and since the beginning of the crisis through June, we were able to provide the following:
And, we keep progressing. You see, the calls we made that first week didn’t stop. They have continued now each week for 15 weeks in a row. This has allowed us to remain in constant contact with our guests and hear how they are being impacted by this crisis, and to take the necessary steps to provide further assistance. We are inculcating the new families into our family and showing them how this community cares. Calls that were initially brief check-ins have evolved into lengthy discussions celebrating triumphs, such as when a new baby is born, or providing comfort when a guest shares with us that they’ve lost a family member to COVID-19.
Our guests have expressed their gratitude in a myriad of ways, from sending thank you cards, letters, and artwork created by their children to sharing homemade cakes and pies they’ve baked for our volunteers. Each note or letter we receive expresses gratitude for the impact our work has made on their family.
So, to the community, we say THANK YOU! You are the heroes on the front lines doing anything you can for those whose lives have been devastated by this unprecedented crisis. Our guests feel your embrace at a time when they need it the most.
Our work is not done. The needs have not diminished and the number of families who need meals and groceries continues to grow. Even though the Stay at Home order has been relaxed, many of our guests who work in the accommodations and food services industry continue to experience few hours, if they have been able to find work at all. They are still struggling to provide for their families.
Here is what you can do to continue to cushion the blow these families are experiencing:
Angels and Sparrows
At Angels and Sparrows, we strive to be good stewards of the resources given to us and the most precious of those includes YOU, the community. You consistently support us with your time and donations and most recently, this has been amidst the COVID-19 crisis. We appreciate the outpouring of support and donations you have provided to us and it has been absolutely needed!
We recognize and appreciate these donations come at a cost to your family in order to support other families in need, so we want to keep you informed about our continued operations in light of the Stay at Home Order issued by Mecklenburg County yesterday. As our guests will attest, we are considered an Essential Business and, therefore, are permitted to continue operations. In fact, our services will be needed now more than ever. This means travel to and from our establishment to drop-off donations is permitted as well.
There were significant changes to our culture and operations last week as we adapted to the need for social distancing and we learned a lot through this process. One thing we noticed is a tremendous increase in the need for our services. In fact, we experienced a 42% increase in the number of meals provided in just one week! Our peak day was an 86% increase. Many guests who only visit occasionally, showed up each day seeking help. Several conveyed they were scrambling to provide for their families while grappling with fewer hours at work or facing complete layoffs.
Meanwhile, donations from our grocery partners diminished. In response, we quickly emptied many of our pantry items typically reserved for meal preparation to alleviate some of the stress our guests were experiencing. Your generous donations were also used immediately as emergency grocery items for our guests or in our kitchen to meet the increased demand for meals.
While this crisis continues to be distressing for everyone, we expect our community will continue to experience the after-effects of COVID-19 for a long time and have re-strategized how we will continue providing meals with limited resources and increased demand.
Angels and Sparrows intends to remain the valuable resource we have always been in the community. We recognize we will simply have to show we care by using other methods. A new approach we have already implemented is making phone calls to our guests to check on their wellbeing and ascertain special needs. This has been well received and many have acknowledged feeling lonely, isolated, and missing the spirit of community usually experienced together at Angels and Sparrows. We won’t allow our culture to diminish during this crisis and we expect programs and partnerships will emerge and evolve as we continue to address the needs of our community.
Please continue to bring your donations to the kitchen. Hours for food donation drop-off next week will be Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30. We ask that you please honor these hours so we can move guest vehicles in and out of the parking lot safely during service hours. Monetary donations are greatly appreciated because they allow us to fill in the gaps in needs versus supplies. We will keep our website and social media updated as our needs change with the increased demand.
You remain a vital part of our mission and we appreciate your continued support of Angels and Sparrows. Please feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions or concerns.
Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen
HUNTERSVILLE – In the midst of the holiday season, the Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen hosted its annual Christmas Party for Kids. The gathering was exclusively for the children of families who visit the soup kitchen on a regular basis, with 192 tickets distributed for the event.
Covia Corp. of Huntersville, a premier provider of materials to the industrial and energy industries, sponsored the event which featured a hot lunch for the family, a visit and photo with Santa and the opportunity for each child to go toy-shopping with a Covia volunteer.
Angels and Sparrows collected toy donations for several months prior to the event, with the Marines Corps’ Toys For Tots program providing the bulk of toys. Toys were also donated by students at Lake Norman Charter School and the Huntersville Target.
“The holidays can be an especially challenging time for families in need, as they desire to provide the same Christmas experiences we so often take for granted, but resources are limited,” said Jessika Tucker, executive director of Angels and Sparrows. “What was especially endearing was hearing the children tell Santa their hopes for the future, such as to become a doctor, lawyer, or musician. They dream just as big as other children and we were delighted to partner with Covia Corp. to provide this opportunity for our families to celebrate the season and voice their desires.”
The soup kitchen also provided each family with a Christmas meal box that included a ham and other ingredients for a traditional holiday meal.
By email@example.com | on December 30, 2019
LINK TO ARTICLE: https://herald.lakenormanpublications.com/articles/93104/
VISIT LAKE NORMAN WOMAN MAGAZINE: https://issuu.com/lakenormanwoman/docs/lknwdec2019_issuu/26
Sandy Tilley, Angels & Sparrows Founder & Executive Director, to Retire
Contact: Jessika Tucker
Huntersville, NC, October 4, 2018 - When Sandy Tilley left her corporate job in 2007 to fulfill her calling to establish a soup kitchen in Huntersville, many people thought she was crazy. First, there was the misconception that there were no poor or hungry people in the Lake Norman area. Secondly, why would a woman with a comfortable life and nearing retirement age attempt to create something from the ground up with no financial backing? Neither of those or any other obstacles stopped Sandy Tilley.
Fast forward ten years and over 300,000 meals served, and that in itself, should tell you something about Tilley’s determination and passion. She, along with the help of numerous volunteers and thoughtful donors, grew her passion project into a thriving, busy soup kitchen that also provides a place of companionship and hope.
Effective Friday, October 12, 2018, Tilley will retire from her position as Executive Director of Angels and Sparrows. Long-time volunteer and Board Member, Jessika Tucker, has been named the new Executive Director. Tucker has been instrumental in the success of multiple fundraisers for the program and shares Tilley’s passion for serving our community. Tucker has an impressive background and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. She is currently earning her Masters of Science in Business Management with a concentration in Non-Profit Leadership.
“It’s with mixed emotions that I made the decision to retire,” Tilley shares. “But it’s time, and I’ll continue to support Angels and Sparrows as an advisor and will remain on the Board of Directors with a new title, Executive Director Emeritus.”
Tilley says she’ll try to relax some but will stay busy working on a new passion project. “I recently began writing a book about the many miracles and blessings that God has bestowed on us over the past ten years, as well as stories about many of our patrons who have passed through our doors.”
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved,” Tilley shares. “So many loving volunteers and generous supporters have made this possible. I’m just glad we have someone like Jessika who will oversee and continue the program. We are in extremely capable hands.”
Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen is a non-profit organization located at 514 N. Old Statesville Road in Huntersville. It serves warm, nourishing lunches to those in need in our community every Monday through Friday year-round. Learn more at www.angelsandsparrows.org.
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Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen Facts: