Adopt–a–family in Vineland
The Salvation Army’s Vineland, N.J., Corps offers a popular Adopt–a–Family program during the Christmas season. When COVID–19 created a need for food, the corps decided to resurrect the effort with an Adopt–a–Family food drive.
Case manager Aubrie Bonestell, who also is the administrative assistant, said the corps advertised two “no–contact” food drives in late April. Donors were urged to adopt a family and donate enough items for a meal or even several meals.
Bonesteel said tables were set up in the parking lot. People drove up and handed off their donations to volunteers—or simply popped their trunks.
“They didn’t even have to get out of their vehicles,” she said. “If they had items in their trunk, we would get it for them. There was no contact. They had their mask on, we had our masks on, and people loved it.”
The corps asked for masks, toiletries, cleaning supplies, baby items and food, kid–friendly meals, cereal, non–perishable food in boxes and cans, cereal, pasta, sauces, soup, canned meats, vegetables, and fruit.
Bonesteel said she was impressed by the quality of the food. She also received about 10 checks during the food drive.
“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “A lot of people came out and they were so generous. We still have a lot of the food left.”
The corps, which serves not just Vineland but all of Cumberland County in New Jersey, also receives donations from local stores and distributes food to about 100 people a day. In April, the corps also gave out “blessing bags,” which included such items as toothpaste, shampoo, and cleaning supplies.
Bonesteel said Vineland is home to a large Hispanic population and many of them lost their jobs due to COVID–19. However, they trust Majors Jacqueline and Moises Rivera, the corps officers in Vineland. They recognize The Salvation Army as a place where they can find help and light in a time of darkness.
“There’s definitely a trust and a bond here with the Hispanic community,” Bonesteel said.
Bonesteel, who has young children, said COVID–19 has been an anxious time. She also sees the desperate need.
“I see the cars lined up around the block to donate,” she said. “I see the people who need help. I hear the stories. It’s just sad. People are waiting for their unemployment checks. People finally got their stimulus checks, which I’m thankful, but they’re still coming. It’s the things I see that motivate me.
“There are days when I say, ‘I can’t do this anymore, it’s too stressful.’ Then the next morning I think about the stories or the people that I saw, and it fills me back up again every day. I get drained and then I get filled back up. There are some people that are so thankful.”
Bonesteel said her mother was a 40–year social worker and taught her compassion.
“My entire life, we’ve always just helped others,” she said. “I’ve seen the things people go through and I want to be helpful.”
Bonesteel didn’t go to church as a youth. She is still growing in her Christian faith. But since joining The Salvation Army, she says she has seen the power of God at work.
“Sometimes we’ll talk about something and then all of a sudden somebody will knock on the door and bring it,” she said. “I do believe a lot more than I did before.”
by Robert Mitchell