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Published On: Fri, May 8th, 2020

#CommunityHeroes: Nonprofits Serve up Free hot Meals with a Side of Compassion

A local nonprofit has found the recipe for brightening this dark time for those in need amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For the past four weeks, volunteers at the EJS Project have been serving free hot meals with a side of compassion to put a dent in the need caused by COVID-19.

The steady flow of motorists on Friday was a vivid sign of the economic hardship sown by the pandemic. Each week, the numbers increased, and on Friday they served 400 plates, organizers said.

“There is a huge need in our community, as you can see,” said Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson Jr., founder of the mentoring program. “Last week we gave away 178 meals and the week before that we gave away 100.”

The scope of the giveaways highlights the desperation caused by the deadly disease: furloughs, interruptions in school meal programs, layoffs and reductions in work hours.

Anthony Copeland said he was heading home to eat all he could find on Friday when he stumbled upon manna.

“This has got to be a godsend,” the 68-year-old man said as he rode away on his bicycle after receiving his plate of chicken and macaroni and cheese. “I was about to eat a banana and a mango and I saw you all over here serving food.”

The food giveaway, is organized by the nonprofits, the EJS Project and KOP Mentoring Network. The food, donated by local restaurants, varies each week.

“The quality of the food is in line with what you get at any of these restaurants,” said C. Ron Allen, CEO of KOP Mentoring Network. “One week, we had chicken and pasta, last week we had a choice between pulled pork or chicken and macaroni and cheese, and this week they have home cooked chicken and mac and cheese.”

Volunteers practiced social distancing, wore facemasks and gloves, and took other precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Palm Beach County Health Department.

While the numbers of people showing up for food is impressive, organizers said the amount of volunteers offering to help is even more so.

Walteonna Hickman, a student at Atlantic High School, was among about 15 students who came out to volunteer.

She was tired of being cooped up in the house so she had no problems spending her evening doing a good cause.

“I think this is such a good idea to feed these people because there are so many people who need food,” she said.

Even the principal, Tara Ocampo, was on hand to help and cheer on her students.

“I am very proud of them. They are doing a very something positive to help the community,” she said.

Organizers say the food giveaway will continue each Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. at 700 W. Atlantic Ave. as long as the current situation continues.

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