Like basically everything else during the past year, a Kanawha City food bank was unable to open its doors and provide much-needed community services, shuttered intermittently in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As health restrictions are being relaxed or lifted, however, the Common Grounds food bank has reopened to continue its mission to assist those who need some extra day-to-day help, even as the COVID-19 safety threat appears to diminish.
Susan Vieweg is a board member with the Common Grounds program and wants to get word out that the food bank is in service again. The South Hills resident has been with the food bank since its inception nearly 14 years ago. During her time with the organization, Common Grounds has served more than 3,000 families in some years, she said.
“We’re very anxious to let people know we’ve reopened, after all that happened in the last year,” Vieweg said.
Common Grounds serves residents of Kanawha County who live from the 35th Street Bridge area in Kanawha City to Montgomery. This coverage area includes the communities of Belle, Cabin Creek, Cedar Grove, Chelyan, Crown Hill, Dawes, Decota, Diamond, Drybranch, Dupont City, East Bank, Eskdale, Gallagher, Glasgow, Handley, Hansford, Hernshaw, Hugheston, Kanawha City, Kayford, Leewood, London, Malden, Mammoth, Marmet, Miami, Ohley, Pond Gap, Pratt, Quincy, Shrewsbury, Winifrede and Witcher.
Common Grounds staff members provide a box of food, accommodating the size of the family, once a month. “It’s usually a three-day supply of food tailored to the size of the family, but since we’ve reopened, we’ve been expanding our boxes of food, quite a bit, actually,” Vieweg said.
Eligibility requirements, such as monthly income and proof of residence, must be met to obtain items from the food bank. “It’s based on they where live,” Vieweg explained, “and they can no earn more than 150% of the poverty level.”
Common Grounds also provides referrals and limited utility assistance. Qualifying families are eligible to sign up for Thanksgiving boxes of food, which contain a complete holiday meal, as well.
St. Agnes Catholic, Morris Memorial United Methodist and Village Chapel Presbyterian churches support and manage the all-volunteer Common Grounds project, which is assisted by community partners such as Kroger and Panera Bread.
In 2007, Father John McDonough of St. Agnes Catholic Church shared his vision of providing basic food essentials throughout the Kanawha City and Eastern Kanawha County region with Pastor Barry Moll of Morris Memorial United Methodist. Both clergymen presented their plan to their respective congregations, and Common Grounds opened its doors on Sept. 1, 2007.
When Pastor Todd Wright of Village Chapel Presbyterian Church learned of the ecumenical mission outreach shortly thereafter, he and his congregation joined in supporting the effort.
Volunteers who attend any of the three churches are welcome and always in demand, as are cash and nonperishable food donations from the public at large.
“We welcome high school kids as volunteers, those who need to get the community service hours,” Vieweg said.
Suggested food donations include healthy items, including:
• Poultry/Fish/Beans: Canned chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon and canned pork and beans or dried beans.
• Grains: Oatmeal, unsweetened cereals, pastas and macaroni and cheese.
• Vegetables: A large variety of vegetables are welcome. Canned green beans, corn and/or peas are placed in most boxes; other canned vegetables are welcome for variety.
• Fruits/Fruit Juices: A large variety of fruits in their own juices are welcome; applesauce in a jar is placed in most boxes. Usually offered are apple juice or tomato juice, but other fruit juices are accepted.
• Soups: Chicken noodle soup or tomato soup are typically placed in the food boxes, although other varieties of canned soups are welcome.
• Other sought-after donated items for the food bank include bar soap and bathroom tissue, which are placed in all of the boxes when they are available. Also appreciated are donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste, dish detergent and laundry detergent. too. To help homeless individuals, Common Grounds accepts canned food items with pop tops, individual fruit or pudding cups and small hygiene products such as shampoo.
For more information about volunteering or donating items or funds to support Common Grounds, contact Susan Vieweg at 304-344-2617.
Common Grounds is located at 6600 MacCorkle Ave., S.E. in Kanawha City. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information about services and eligibility, phone Common Grounds at 304-720-9690.