Highland Lakes Crisis Network delivering meals

Zoe Stedman (left), her mother, Amy, and Holley Gray are three of the volunteers who helped prepare food for delivered meals Tuesday, March 31, at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

With more people at home due to the threat of COVID-19, the need to prepare and deliver meals to those in most danger from the disease has skyrocketed in a matter of days.

The Highland Lakes Crisis Network is ready to serve.

The faith-based organization was created after the October 2018 flood to support people going through a crisis or disaster, which now includes the coronavirus pandemic.

HLCN Executive Director Kevin Naumann said volunteers at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls on March 31 boxed nearly 200 meals for about 50 families. Last week, it was 50 boxes a day.

Students being home has contributed to the rise in numbers.

Since closing campuses, Marble Falls Independent School District has been providing free grab-and-go meals at several locations to ages 18 and younger, but officials came across an obstacle: Some students couldn’t get to a pickup point due to a lack of transportation.

Naumann said they’ve identified at least 40 of these students.

Now, Crisis Network volunteer drivers pick up school meals and deliver them to students in need along with the boxed meals for other residents unable to leave their homes.

“This is Meals on Wheels on steroids,” Naumann said. “If they contact us and say they’re hungry, we’re responding.”

The Reverend Jeremy Cotton of Hill Country Fellowship in Burnet said drivers have been going as far south as Johnson City, as far west as Llano, and as for north as Tow in addition to covering all of Burnet County.

“You name a city in our community, and we’re taking meals on a daily basis,” he said.

The network plans to offer school meal delivery service to students in the Burnet and Llano school districts who can’t get to their pickup locations.

This effort is being spearheaded by volunteer Luciana McKeown, who has been part of the Highland Lakes Crisis Network’s core team for six months and took it upon herself to coordinate meal preparations. She has a background in food service and the state certifications that go with it, Naumann said.

“I know how to cook for a large number of people,” he recalled her saying.

Next was finding a place large enough to prepare the meals. Last week, the Crisis Network used the kitchen at First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls. This week, teams are at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls.

Along with the volunteer-prepared meals, Chick-fil-A of Marble Falls is donating 200 sandwiches each day.

Highland Lakes Crisis Network delivering meals
Once food delivery boxes are ready, Highland Lakes Crisis Network volunteer Kara Stewart helps bag them. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Naumann said the boxed deliveries include enough food to cover three meals. Volunteers also drop off rice and beans from The Helping Center of Marble Falls to cover Saturdays and Sundays.

Naumann noted this service is off to a great start, and he believes that, as word spreads, more people will request it.

Which means more needs, including:

  • money to purchase food to prepare
  • kitchen managers with state certifications
  • volunteers to help cook and box the meals
  • volunteer drivers to deliver the meals

“Our volunteers have been excited to help,” Naumann said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. As things escalate, we do see a real need from the Llano and Burnet areas.”

The goal is to have about six kitchen managers working directly with McKeown and leading the cooking teams.

Currently, about 16 churches have volunteered to prepare meals for a week each. Churches will assemble five groups of 10 people to follow social distancing protocols in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Volunteers wear masks and gloves in compliance with government rules and regulations.

Drivers also wear masks and gloves on deliveries.

Naumann said the network is in talks with an owner of a local restaurant who has offered its kitchen for two weeks since the business is closed.

“We can use that as a base of operation for cooking and delivering,” he said.

The Highland Lakes Crisis Network will continue to serve in any way it can, Naumann and the Rev. Cotton both noted, adding that the list of everyday items such as toiletries, personal protective gear, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, baby items, meat, eggs, bread, and canned goods remains high.

“We’ve had enough people to prepare meals and more than enough people to deliver,” Cotton said. “I don’t think we’ve hit the spike. People are inputting their requests.”

“The number (of people who need the service) will continue to rise,” Naumann said. “I don’t think it’ll slow down. I think it’ll keep growing. As people are moving around, the number of infections will go up and the number of people we need to volunteer will go up.”

For more information on volunteering or receiving assistance, visit the Highland Lakes Crisis Network website or call 325-423-3662. 

For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the DailyTrib.com coronavirus resources webpage.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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