Some food banks fight through pandemic while others take a break

WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – While some food pantries are still going strong despite the pandemic, others are hit harder and close to keep community members safe.

On a normal Friday morning, the lobby at Helping Hand in Beckley is typically filled with clients in need of food and clothing. Since the pandemic hit, things have been a little different.

“After the virus, we stopped clothing completely because of the fact that we couldn’t have people coming in and going through the clothing,” said treasurer Howard Mollohan. “We also cut down the number of people coming in at any one time. We only allow people to come in one person at a time, one family at a time, with masks and so forth.”

While Helping Hands remains open, other food pantries haven’t been as fortunate. Fayetteville United Methodist Church was forced to close its pantry doors to keep the community safe.

“It really bothered us and it really bothered our minister because he is a giving person and he was really upset about it,” said volunteer Lita Eskew. “[At first, we] did put food out on the sidewalk for people to come by and pick up when they wanted. Everyone was upset but everyone realized that it had to be done for the time being.”

As the pandemic doesn’t quite have a clear end in sight, some clients are still nervous, wondering if Helping Hands is in danger of closing its doors.

“We are not going to close,” said Mollohan, adding that the pantry has seen overwhelming support form the community. “We’ve been here 25 or 30 years. We will be here to serve the needy as long as there are needy.”

The food pantry still has plenty of supplies, coming from places like the Mountaineer Food Bank and Kroger. Volunteers are just happy to keep helping.

“It makes us feel very good because it’s been a very tough time,” said Mollohan. “When you sit down and see the news and see all the terrible things going on right now, the fact that we are able to provide a little bit of sparkle and a little bit of light to some family–it really makes us feel good.”

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at