Hunger is the first sign

November 25, 2020

By Julie Capaldi, President, United Way of Pickens County

COVID fatigue, COVID cranky, Coronacation, (which is another term for NO vacation). I am all of those things but mostly, I am just plain scared. For nine months, United Way and our front line friends have been dealing with the decimation of people’s lives by the coronavirus.

Here is the reality. The agencies that provide crisis relief are overwhelmed and they surely can’t fundraise. That means United Way’s COVID-19 Recovery fund is their main source of funding. When all of this started, I promised them they would not have to worry about money. “Just serve,” I said. NEVER in a million years did I think it would be this bad!

The COVID funding raised by United Way flies out the door. If I am not constantly asking for money, there is no revenue. That is super scary. It’s 3 a.m. “stress insomnia in action” scary. We can’t rest. Just when you think you’ve reached a plateau and you can breathe — it starts all over again.

HUNGER is the first sign. Empty food pantry shelves. Then utility assistance needs increase followed by evictions. It’s a cycle.

Salvation Army Director, Jim Abbott is our touchstone because he IS the front line and he keeps me informed as to the reality of life in Pickens County. This is what he told me that last time we spoke:

“Hunger is the first crisis symptom we have seen as a result of this pandemic. Children being at home more often during the week, a reduction in available work hours for those employed in a service industry and limited or no household transportation, all come together in producing an immediate need for household food assistance. If someone is hungry, that hunger takes over their thoughts and reduces energy levels. This is true for the parents as well as the children. By providing crisis food assistance, the entire family is better prepared mentally and physically to find employment solutions and perform well in school.”

Recently, I started to notice appeals from a variety of friends and acquaintances that United Christian Ministries desperately needed food. If it was one or two calls to action, I wouldn’t be too worried, but this was a dozen or more. I emailed Teresa Nash, Executive Director of United Christian Ministries with a one-word subject … FOOD?

She responded immediately with a resounding YES. “We need food.” Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we had the funds and sent $2,500 immediately. When your reserves are that depleted, you don’t have time to organize multiple food drives.

“United Christian Ministries continues to see increased numbers of families in Pickens County struggling with food insecurity during these pandemic times,” said Nash. “Food assistance packages from United Christian Ministries are designed to provide three meals a day for a three-day period. In the past five months, our pantry has distributed 4,700 more meals compared to the same five-month period of 2019.”

That is a huge increase. HUGE.

Right before the coronavirus hit us, United Way of Pickens County and Clemson University joined forces to produce a food insecurity study for Pickens County. Frankly, it wasn’t good news and now it had reached crisis mode.

This article isn’t all doom and gloom. People are really stepping up. I’ve made eight separate appeals for COVID-19 Recovery Funding. Eight! Some of you have given EVERY time. If that doesn’t warm your heart …

The Easley Downtown Merchants are holding a food drive for United Way. We will coordinate distribution to United Christian Ministries, Five Point Food Pantry and others. There will be gift certificates and good old holiday fun while helping a hungry family.

I think this will be good for everyone. It will encourage us to shop locally and give everyone the opportunity to help someone who is really suffering.

If you would like to contribute to the COVID-19 Recovery Fund, go to our website, You can also mail a check to United Way of Pickens County, PO Box 96, Easley, SC 29641. Just write COVID on the check.

This editorial first appeared in the Sentinel Progress on November 25, 2020.