By PETE DELEA
Daily News-Record 12/10/20
As COVID-19 lingers, Capt. Harold Gitau of the Harrisonburg Salvation Army said food insecurity continues to be a problem locally.
He said more and more people are headed to food pantries for basic staples.
“We’re seeing more people who have never been through our doors before now asking for food,” Gitau said.
This year, more than ever, he said, the Salvation Army is relying on the annual Brent Berry Food Drive.
Now in its 13th year, James “Bucky” Berry and his 21-year-old son, Brent Berry, started the drive because food pantries helped the elder Berry when he was a child.
Entering this year’s campaign, the family collected enough food to feed more than 40,000 families.
“It’s bad out there right now,” the elder Berry said. “People’s jobs are on the line. If we have another shutdown, people might not have money for food.”
Last year, the family collected enough food to fill two Harrisonburg transit buses.
The family aims to collect enough food to fill the Salvation Army’s food pantry for roughly six months. The food pantry serves about 250 people a month.
“It keeps our pantry going,” Gitau said.
Last year, the Berry family set up at the now-defunct Red Front Supermarket on Chicago Avenue in Harrisonburg.
This year’s collection is slated to start on Dec. 18 at Bridgewater Foods. It will run 12 hours a day, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., until Jan. 2.
Gitau said there’s additional ways to help the Salvation Army during this critical time.
He said the organization is far away from meeting its annual kettle campaign goal of $ 175,000. As of Tuesday, it collected $ 47,000. That’s about $ 20,000 behind this time last year. He said a lack of volunteers has restricted the number of days the Salvation Army is ringing the bell.
Additionally, the Harrisonburg Fire Department is teaming up with the Salvation
Army to provide bicycles for needy children in the area.
Residents can take new children’s bikes to any of the city’s four fire stations or the Rockingham County Fairgrounds by Dec. 16. The bikes, which should be for children 14 and younger, don’t need to be assembled.
“We are lucky to be able to support this incredibly worthwhile event,” Chief Matthew Tobia said in a statement. “At a time when so many people are suffering, our greatest gift is to be able to demonstrate compassion through giving.”