Guest post: Valley Interfaith finds innovative ways to help families

Alicia Stollenwerk, volunteer-development coordinator at Valley Interfaith Community Resource Center, is a member of the Lockland WeTHRIVE! team. We asked her to share how Valley Interfaith meets the needs of families in Lockland and the surrounding area. (See below for ZIP codes and WeTHRIVE! communities served by the center.)

Valley Interfaith serves families in need

For families and individuals who are struggling financially, all your needs are addressed at Valley Interfaith. Food and clothing can be accessed weekly, and a plethora of other services are also offered.

Case management is provided to help address those deeper needs surrounding the many one-off circumstances that could otherwise derail a family’s financial security. And soon, this case management will be expanded through Project Lift, a program Valley Interfaith is offering in partnership with United Way.

Partnering with agencies to provide more services

Valley partners with a number of other agencies as well, so our members can gain access to everything from jobs, addiction services, and government programs to healthcare/nutrition, cooking classes, and free haircuts onsite. Throughout the year, Valley offers programs such as Back-to-School and Holiday Sharing to ensure that members’ seasonal requirements do not blow their budgets.

Ensuring food access during the pandemic

At the end of the day, though, it has become more and more evident in our community that food is a number one fundamental need that cannot be put on hold.

When other pantries had to shut down for safety reasons during the pandemic, Valley found ways to secure food for their members in a safe manner. We mailed out hundreds of food-only gift cards to grocery stores, but also made sure that high-risk members could still access food without having to enter a grocery store.

Valley volunteers made hundreds of deliveries straight to the doorsteps of these members who needed food the most during this crisis. Introducing a contactless drive-thru in 2020 was the next way that Valley Interfaith adjusted to the changing needs in the community. However, two years later, so many more innovations have arisen from the need to adjust to the changing environment.

Food delivery, mobile pantry, and more

Valley has accommodated the needs of those who are unable to access our Choice Pantry and the Drive-Thru onsite in a variety of creative ways. We are the first in the area to partner with DoorDash to offer Project DASH, delivering groceries to our elderly and disabled members, as well as those who may not own a car or be on a bus line to get to the center for needed food.

Graphic introducing Project DASH.

And for those who may need something to eat outside the hours of Valley’s services, we even have community food boxes being placed around the community, outside a local church, outside a local school, and just down the street. These boxes will always be stocked up with a little something for those emergency needs, particularly canned goods with pop tabs to be more accessible for those without refrigeration or cooking capacity, including the homeless population in our area.

Finally, thanks to some very generous donors, Valley was able to purchase a refrigerated van, allowing us to operate a new Mobile Market. Now, Valley volunteers take to the road and set up mini-pantries at a variety of different locations, targeting low-income neighborhoods and areas of poor transportation.

Children surrounding mobile food pantry van.

Valley Interfaith Community Resource Center has truly spent the past two years getting as innovative as possible to tackle the serious hunger issue that runs so deep in our community. While poverty has not been eliminated, Valley Interfaith certainly does our part to alleviate it and reduce the strain on families working toward sustainability. It is a blessing to have this agency on our community.

Alicia Stollenwerk.

Alicia Stollenwerk is the Volunteer-Development Coordinator for Valley Interfaith Community Resource Center. Contact her at AStollenwerk@vicrc.org.

List of communities and ZIP codes.
Learn how your WeTHRIVE! team can work with Valley Interfaith by contacting Alicia Stollenwerk at AStollenwerk@vicrc.org.