Catalyst - Fall 2020 Vol 3 No 1 | Page 20

An Interview The Two Georgias Initiative Participants: Zoe Myers and Jennifer Lovett Cook County Family Connection Jennifer and Zoe, how are you both doing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how is your team doing? ZM: We are doing well - we're all very tired at this point, because the food distribution projects that we have taken on have been an awful lot of hard work. But we've had a remarkable team of partners and volunteers that have hung in there with us throughout this process, and it takes a strong team to make it through a crisis. What do you think has been the biggest operational change at Cook County Family Connection over the past few months? ZM; We closed our offices like most folks did back toward the end of March, and paused our collaborative meetings where we have between 40 and 45 people at every meeting - we have a really strong, diverse partnership. But now instead of working with our partners in large group meetings, we are working with partners individually and in small groups through a variety of processes. We've been using a lot of social media, email blasts, personal phone calls, conference calls and Zoom meetings, just the same as everyone else is doing. Some of our work is even done through sidewalk and driveway discussions where we drive to a partner’s home and meet outside for that face-to-face interaction from a safe distance. We’ve been trying to find new ways of keeping the partnership pulled together and folks included in what we're doing. We've been really impressed with the success of our Facebook page. We had used that for quite a while, as a means to share what we are doing and to share resources and connections. Typically we had been having a readership of about 3,500 people per month on our Facebook page, but during the pandemic that number has jumped to around 9,000 readers a month. We have been excited by that because it's evolved into a 20 great way to share out links to other services and to keep people engaged in what we're doing. Your team has been doing a lot of food distribution work during the pandemic - can you tell us more about that? ZM: The SOGA Charitable Fund contacted us within the first week of the shutdown and wanted to know if they gave us a very generous donation, if we would be willing to coordinate emergency food work. And we said, absolutely, we’d be honored to take it on. So they gave us an amazing donation to get that started and we began with free food tables-- five different locations where we put a table outside the door of different businesses in different parts of the community and kept those tables stocked so that the general public could walk up and take whatever they needed off of the tables. Then we started doing our Manna Monday food drops and have done one of those every Monday morning since the first week of April, and we have at least 150 households that drive through every Monday morning. So our team members go out and pick up fresh produce, and we purchase canned foods through Second Harvest, and we buy from bakeries in this area. We also have a large hog farm that's located in a neighboring county that started making donations of pork products to us. We distributed over 100,000 pounds of food to several hundred families thanks to generous donations from SOGA Charitable Fund and the Community Foundation of South Georgia. We’re also still providing food for about 80 senior citizens who right now are shut-in and home bound. We have buses through a partnership with South Georgia Area Aging Council who provide the buses and the drivers. We load all of the produce and canned goods on the buses, then they deliver out to those 80 senior citizens. We were recently contacted