CRESTON — Ashe Outreach Ministries is a feeding program serving more than 2,300 people a month with food. The nonprofit organization features a food pantry, school backpack program, community meals, mobile meals and the Out Grow Hunger program.

Although the Riverview Community center is currently closed due to the COVID-19 health crisis, Ashe Outreach is a separate entity that rents its space from Riverview and is continuing to operate.

The March 20 fish fry was held as planned from 4 to 8 p.m. There was a large turnout and only to-go plates were served because use of the dining room was not permitted due to Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order closing restaurants issued on March 17.

Those who purchased plates did not enter the building and volunteers met them with the bagged to-go meals outside. Culbreth said Food Lion in Jefferson and Ingles in West Jefferson supplies them with the plastic bags used to carry the boxed meals.

Volunteer Tom Faulkner helps with maintenance of the building, fish frys and often helps out in the thrift store which is located in the Riverview Community Center. Faulker has spent a lot of time doing disaster recovery projects and is almost retired from his work as a handyman.

Faulker said Ashe Outreach serves a community meal two days per week and also does big holiday meals for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter each year.

He said the backpack program the ministry provides for the youth in the county is important because many children experience food insecurity over the weekend providing them with a backpack full of food on Fridays helps alleviate any insecurity.

Anne Jones, a volunteer at the Fish Fry who also is in charge of the Thrift Store said everything that is done through their programs at Ashe Outreach is done for the betterment of the community.

Jones said in order to join the community center, people must complete four hours of community service work there.

“It is a good place for people to come together and enjoy each other and make a difference in the community,” Jones said.

Ashe Outreach has modified its delivery models in response to COVID-19 and are open on their normal schedule Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. They are continuing to provide their normal food boxes, with a sign-in station at the primary entrance. Boxes of food will be brought to that station for people to place into their vehicle. A disinfectant will be applied to any surfaces, including the cart people use to transport the boxes to their vehicle, as a precautionary measure.

Dillon Culbreth who serves as a chairperson at Ashe Outreach, said there was a healthy turnout at the Fish Fry on March 20 and he hopes they will be able to keep up or increase the number of plates served.

Culbreth provided numbers food pantry boxes distributed from all three programs. According to Culbreth, boxes in January totaled 2,830, while boxes in February totaled 1,568 due to inclement weather. In January, the number of hot meals served between the two kitchens were 1,560 and in February the number of hot meals served was 1,192.

According to Culbreth, Ashe Outreach programs operate according to the school scheduled as far as weather closings during the week and that was why less meals were distributed during February.

The Mobile Meals program continues to deliver hot meals to the list of homebound individuals on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week. According to Culbreth, 85 meals are delivered per day, three days a week to homebound residents.

Culbreth said some of their current drivers are in the high risk category and Ashe Outreach is seeking willing individuals to carry a meal route on any of those days. Those interested with time to spare can call (336) 385-1314 for more information or to express interest.

Ashe Outreach continues to provide a hot, prepared meal on request during their hours of operation.

According to Culbreth, they will be following the same protocol that is being enforced with their West Jefferson community meal on Saturdays. There will be no dining inside the facilities, all meals will be delivered to their sign-in table for people to pick up and take home with them.

They are also working with Ashe County Schools by providing school pantry food bags to students during the “Grab-n-Go” food distribution at Blue Ridge Elementary.

Ashe Outreach will continue their signature Fish Frys with to-go plates only and no dining in options. Culbreth said their principle funding at this point comes from these proceeds and the need for food is only going to increase until the worldwide viral infection calms down.

Donations are always appreciated and can be mailed to P.O. Box 157 in Creston, NC 28615.

Ashe Outreach is located at 11719 NC-88 W in Creston, NC.

More information about Ashe Outreach and their mission can be found on their Facebook page @AsheOutreach. For any additional questions or concerns call (336) 385-1314

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