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'We didn’t have the luxury of shutting our doors': Non-profit providing more meals during pandemic

With COVID-19 forcing many seniors and others to remain home, the Atlanta-based non-profit Open Hand, is now serving more than 3,500 in 43 counties.

ATLANTA — With COVID-19 showing no signs of letting up, the need for nutritious meals for those who can't leave home is rising dramatically. Answering that challenge with teams of volunteers and dedicated staff is Atlanta based non-profit Open Hand.

Their mission has gone to a new level and came on quickly.

Going from cooking, packaging and delivering 5,000 meals a day to 2,500 people in 19 metro Atlanta counties, the pandemic has now taken Open Hand services to 43 Georgia counties. They are preparing 6,100 daily meals to 3,500 hundred people who can't leave their home.

“We didn’t have the luxury of shutting our doors and taking a hiatus,” said Open Hand Executive Director, Matt Pieper.

“That meant making some drastic changes. No longer allowing volunteers in the building, limiting participation to delivery,” he added.

“And the thing that was most dramatic was separating our staff into two operating teams to make sure they did not work together, so they worked on alternate days,” Pieper said.

READ: COVID-19 survivor says he's experiencing long-term side effects months later

While Open Hand staffers are now working the kitchen and packaging, the volunteer, more than 50 of them, handle home deliveries.To rural counties, Open Hand is using car and delivery services.

For volunteer drivers like Dennis Bentson, it’s a chance to give back and pay it forward.

“I know early on in life I was helped, and I need to pay it back.
More than anything else, it’s just the right thing to do in terms of helping others,” Bentson said.

With Open Hand now making meal deliveries in Northwest, Southwest and Middle Georgia, they hope to expand their services state-wide.

“We could do as many as 20,000 meals a day with a little more investment and some freezer space,” Pieper said.

He said that Open Hand can go to four shifts a day and produce and package as many as 30,000 meals. But for now, the focus is on meeting the nutritional needs of stay-at-home clients in the 43 Georgia counties they serve.

To learn more about Open Hand, visit the non-profit's website. 

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