Aftershocks of COVID–19

COVID-19 has quieted down in most parts of the country, but the aftershocks are still being felt in one rural Ohio community.

Major Louis Patrick, the corps officer in Bellaire, Ohio, near the West Virginia border, said he sees the economic aftermath of COVID. Several businesses have closed, including the Hopedale Mine in Hopedale, Ohio. The move put 100 people out of work.

“Some of the mining companies in this area have closed and we’re getting a lot of people who have stated, ‘I’ve never needed help before.’ We were happy to be here,” Patrick said.

“We live in a depressed area to begin with so COVID-19 just exasperated the need. People are still in need and not everybody is back in full swing. Some of our smaller businesses have been affected, as well as some of the bigger ones.”


Food for the body

During the height of COVID, from March to July, the corps gave away produce, dairy, and meat seven days a week and would see 500 to 800 cars a day at the drive-thru events.

The food came from Gordon Foods through a USDA program. The corps also received donations from the community, including $2,000 from the Ohio River Valley Elks. Donations also came from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank and a host of food stores such as Sam’s Club, Sheetz, Kroger, and others.

“We have been doing between one and two tractor trailer loads of different products every single week from our location,” Patrick said. “We were getting anywhere between $75,000 and $150,000 worth of meat per week that we gave away on a regular basis. We gave away a large amount of non-perishable food as well.

“When we get these tractor trailers full of food, we give it to different agencies who are serving people.”

The Ohio State Police and Bellaire Police Department helped deliver meals to those who couldn’t get out.

Patrick said many found themselves in need because while they applied for unemployment, the process took too long and they ran out of food. The Salvation Army was their only hope.

“One person said to me, ‘I didn’t know how we were going to eat because we have no money.’ They said, ‘If it wasn’t for you guys today, we wouldn’t be eating this weekend.’ These are the types of conversations we would have,” Patrick said. “We would tell them that we were blessed to get this food and we were happy to be able to share it with them.”

A local bakery showed up at one of the food events and handed out donut holes.


Help for the spirit

“It kind of reminded me of the Donut Girls,” Patrick said of the World War I Salvation Army women soldiers who gave out donuts to troops.

Patrick said volunteers would also pray with the people in each car. One grandmother asked Patrick to pray for her grandson, who was involved in an accident.

“We prayed with her and three or four weeks later she brought him to church and said, ‘This is who you prayed for.’ It was a great thing to be with them and to get to pray for people during that period of time,” he said.

Patrick said the Bellaire area has seen an increase in coronavirus cases with the return of school.

“We are seeing some escalation being on the border of West Virginia,” he said. “We’re more of a West Virginia town than an Ohio town given our proximity to West Virginia.”


Food for the soul

Patrick said being a pastor during COVID–19 has been “insane.” The corps started outdoor services in June after not meeting since March.

“The Lord was good to us,” he said. “We didn’t have rain on any of the Sundays. It did rain one Sunday but it stopped before we did our service.”

The corps returned to indoor services on July 12, along with masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing. Attendance has been about 60 people, down slightly from the pre-COVID number of 80.

Looking ahead, Patrick worries about people who are going to need further financial help with bills that went delinquent during COVID. Some have run up huge bills, particularly in rent, mortgage, and electrical.

“Some people have run up thousands of dollars,” he said. “We’re just unable to meet that need in every case, but we’re able to meet their need when it comes to food.

by Robert Mitchell

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