Even before COVID-19, the Neighborhood Christian Centers Inc. provided emergency food, clothing, and housing items to families in crisis throughout Memphis as part of its core mission.
Now with thousands of Mid-South families seeking food assistance, the NCC fulfilling that mission at breakneck speed.
Weeks into the pandemic, lines of cars still snake around their mobile food pantry locations. Volunteers have been working hard to pack the trunks of cars with boxes of canned goods and other shelf-stable and fresh food items while practicing the required safety protocols.
suggest the need for food has increased dramatically since the pandemic and its business closures began. More and more families are struggle to take care of basic needs.
Anna Wilcox is NCC's communication director. She said you can hear deep sighs of relief when families receive aid.
“We have seen an overwhelming amount of gratitude, thankfulness and largely relief,” said Wilcox. “[Families] don’t have to worry about what they’re going to eat for the next few days.”
To date, the NCC has distributed more than 4,000 meals to families during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve also distributed more than 3,500 school snacks and meals. NCC is headquartered in North Memphis' 38107 ZIP code. It's served close to 1000 people there.
NCC's amped-up services are funded by a $20,000 grant from the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund. The fund is managed by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.
The grants provide flexible funding to local nonprofit and community organizations working with people impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Grants are available to nonprofits in West Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, and northern Mississippi.
Wilcox said all families in need are welcome to pick up food at a NCC mobile pantry location.
“We don’t limit our service to one particular zip code,” Wilcox said. “Anyone for any particular reason can come and receive aid.”
to donate to the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund or here
to donate directly to Neighborhood Christian Centers
A Neighborhood Christian Center volunteer preps meals for families in response to COVID-19. (Submitted)
A Time of Great Need
The Mid-South regional response fund has raised $2,294,281 through contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations.
Since March 18, $1,340,000 has been distributed in organizational grants.
“The outpouring of support we have seen from donors demonstrates the compassion and generosity of this community," said Bob Fockler, president of the CFGM, in a statement.
The fund is managed by CFGM in partnership with The City of Memphis, Shelby County government, United Way of the Mid-South, and Momentum Nonprofit Partners/Mid-South Philanthropy Network.
The Neighborhood Christian Center was one of the first recipients of the grant and jumped immediately to action to serve its neighbors.
The nonprofit partnered with several other organizations including the Mid-South Food Bank, the YMCA, Whole Child Strategies, and Shelby County Schools to provide school lunch distribution, mobile food pantries, and other crisis support efforts.
Wilcox said that the community organizations have really stepped up and worked together to address the growing need.
“It has really been a collaborative effort to provide and assist where families need it most during this time,” said Wilcox.
With local stay-at-home orders likely extending into May, Wilcox anticipates concerns about food security won't subside anytime soon. He said NCC will continue to address that need.
“We’ll continue to do this for the next season, whatever that looks like,” said Wilcox.
North Memphis Roots
Founded in 1978, NCC has been serving Memphis for more than 40 years.
Dr. JoeAnn Ballard became its first executive director in 1978. In 2008, her daughter Ephie Johnson took over as president & CEO.
The faith-based nonprofit works to stabilize and empower families through three key ministries: Compassionate Services, Adult & Family, and Youth Empowerment.
In 2005, NCC moved their main location to 785 Jackson Avenue in the Manassas area of North Memphis. NCC has 10 site locations across the Mid-south, including Frayser, Binghampton, and southeast Memphis and Shelby County.
All food distribution is centralized at their North Memphis headquarters, which also serves as the hub for their new delivery service.