HENDERSON — Gang Free Inc. concluded a busy 2020 by continuing their partnership with AdVance Academy, Curamericas and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, distributing meals primarily to Vance County’s elderly population.
With many residents struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Executive Director Melissa Elliott and her staff have worked to help feed people throughout the year, with Thursday’s distribution at Henderson Middle School and the Vance Commons on New Year’s Eve being the organization’s last before 2021.
“We want the community to know that we are here,” Elliott said. “So many people depend on Gang Free Inc. for food and it’s always a blessing to give back to the community. About 80% of the population that received food today were over 65 years old, so we want to make sure they’re cared for as well.”
Once COVID-19 cases began to drastically increase in the region, Elliott went to work on ensuring that Gang Free would be able to provide as much food as possible to those directly and indirectly affected by the pandemic.
From March until August, it brought in nine trucks a month to help distribute food to residents all around Henderson. It maintained that commitment to serving the public during the winter, despite scaling back the amount of trucks to five a month beginning in September.
While Elliott does not want to experience another year similar to 2020, Gang Free Inc. was honored to be able to help out so many people during the pandemic. The plan is to continue with regular food distributions long after the pandemic subsides.
“Everything was accelerated, but it was a blessing,” Elliott said. “We’ve done so much to expand our reach this year. I believe we distributed around 30,000 food boxes during this pandemic and we are going to be ready to hit the ground running in 2021.”
As North Carolina continues to set records with the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Elliott is encouraging Vance County residents to be cautious around others and be mindful of social-distancing guidelines until the vaccines become available to the public.
She plans to have Gang Free Inc. at the forefront of providing accurate information on the COVID-19 vaccines in Vance County later in 2021 so that residents are able to obtain proper access and help the region achieve herd immunity by the end of the year.
“We’re going to educate individuals on taking the vaccinations,” Elliott said. “We’re also going to hold events that promote vaccinations, so we’re looking forward to serving the community and building off the momentum we established in 2020.”