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Hundreds of people come for free food boxes

Hundreds of people showed up at Legacy Grove Friday morning for free food from the federal government.

Some arrived at the park two hours early for the USDA Farmers to Families food boxes that were supposed to be distributed at 9 a.m., although the truck from God’s Pantry wasn’t able to get there until after 9:30 because of the traffic.

Winchester Police said that at one point, the line of cars was backed up from Legacy Grove on Lexington Avenue to Maple Street downtown.

Chief Kevin Palmer let the box truck from God’s Pantry into the park, where a long line of cars and trucks were waiting. About 9:40 he said people were in line east to Hays Street, but there was only enough food for those back to Bloomfield Road.

“I think there’s a big need,” Palmer said. “These people are Clark County families.”

Some may have been without work because of the pandemic, but others, he said, had jobs but “they’re not going to turn down an opportunity for help.”

“This is our first time” asking for food assistance, said Amber Hunt, who is bringing up her five nieces and nephews.

While they waited on Lexington Avenue, two of the children danced in the street with their grandmother, Ramona Baxter, to pass the time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had only 300 boxes of food for its coronavirus relief effort in Winchester Friday morning, but far more people came out for it.

Debbie Fatkin, executive director of Clark County Community Services, which coordinated the effort locally, said this was the first time the USDA had distributed food through its Farmers to Families program to anyone who asked for it. It was different from the other food assistance Community Services provides in that there were no income guidelines.

The Farmers to Families program is as much about helping farmers as households in need.

“Because everything was shut down for a period of time, farmers couldn’t get their product out, so the government bought it, and now they’re giving it to people,” Fatkin explained.

The USDA had reported distributing more than 100 million boxes by the end of September.

Although the food was free to anyone who wanted it, Fatkin was a little surprised by how many people came. She had posted on Facebook that the food was to be given away, and that got a lot of attention.

Fatkin said that traffic was backed up on Lexington Avenue for about an hour and a half, but she was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the line moved once they started distributing the food. It was all given away and the traffic cleared out by 11 a.m., she said.

Fatkin said she counted about 300 families and walked up and down Lexington Avenue to let others know there was no more food, so the police used the emergency and turning lane to get people through who didn’t need to wait on the distribution, or who were going to work.

Volunteers for CCCS and the George Rogers Clark High School girls’ basketball team helped load the boxes into the trunks of cars as they were being unloaded from the box truck near the rear of Legacy Grove. 

Recipients were required to stay in their cars and just pop their trunks to reduce the likelihood of anyone spreading the coronavirus.

Coach William Brown said he had taken the girls away from their online classes because what they were doing was a life lesson.

“This is a good thing. This way they learn how to give back,” he said.

Ros Gay, director of the Strode Station Family Resources and Youth Services Center, also helped out Friday because she saw it as a good way to connect with families of students in need while the kids aren’t in classes. 

Fatkin said that on Monday, Oct. 19, there will be more food distributed. This time it will be 1,300 boxes, and of that number, 300 will be delivered to Community Services seniors. The remaining 1,000 boxes will be distributed on the lot of the old Tim Short Chevrolet dealership at 1000 Early Drive, near where Veterans Parkway intersects with Maple Expressway. Fatkin said Palmer has asked that those who come for the food come by way of Washington Street/Irvine Road (Ky. 89) to Veterans Parkway, not along Maple Street, and not back up traffic on Route 15 or U.S. 60. 

The distribution is scheduled for about 10 or 10:30, and Winchester is the first stop this time, but Fatkin said the trucks have been from 45 minutes to three hours late arriving. This time the food won’t be delivered by God’s Pantry but by another agency out of Louisville.

Fatkin asks that those who received a food box on Friday not come back for more on Oct. 19.

“Please let others in our community have an opportunity to get a box of food,” she said.

Fatkin said that Friday, she and her volunteers also handed out information about their regular food distribution for senior citizens and the needy, and will do so again on the 19th.

Community Services on Taylor Avenue is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information about food assistance to those in need, call 744-5034 or visit the website at clarkcountycommunityservices.org.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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