By Emmanuel Freeman
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — A drive-thru food distribution at Tennessee State University on Saturday offered relief to hundreds of residents in the Nashville metro area.
Second Harvest Food Bank, along with TSU and One Generation Away, hosted the contact-free, mobile food pantry distribution outside the TSU indoor practice facility for anyone experiencing hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the aftermath of the March 3 tornado. No registration was required.
Organizers say TSU offered one of the best locations for the food distribution, as more than 500 families were served. Cars lined up from Walter S. Davis Boulevard onto the campus, and up to the Olympic statue. Drivers were directed to the indoor practice facility parking lot and exited on Schrader Lane.
“COVID-19 has caused a lot of challenges to various communities and we want to make sure that when and where TSU can, that we help the community during this pandemic,” said Dr. Curtis Johnson, TSU’s chief of staff. “Partnering with various entities in the community is one way to help with some of the challenges that we are facing. They had a need and TSU had a space that was best configured in a manner to best serve the need.”
Chris Whitney, founder of One Generation Away, a Franklin, Tennessee-Based food ministry, said the ministry conducts about 40 food pantries in Tennessee a year at different locations, mainly in church parking lots.
“We are so grateful to TSU for allowing us to be here today,” Whitney said. “We were looking at somewhere off Clarksville Pike to serve the North Nashville community after the tornado but with the pandemic, we needed a larger parking lot and we thought TSU would be an ideal location.”
About 200 volunteers, wearing masks, gloves and maintaining the required social distance, showed up to arrange tables, unpack boxes, fill grocery bags, and load food into the trunks of cars, as each family drove up. Among the volunteers were Sherrie McGuire, a TSU alum, and her daughter, Makenzie McGuire.
“Service is one of the core values that TSU instilled in us, and that’s what we are doing here today,” said Sherrie, a teacher at Donaldson Christian Academy, who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at TSU in 1995. Donaldson Christian Academy was damaged during the tornado, which destroyed several buildings on TSU’s agricultural farm.
“It’s been a double whammy for my family,” added Sherrie. “We were hit with the tornado on March 3, with a lot of damage then you add COVID-19 to it. A lot of people are hurting. So, I am glad to be back at my school to help serve.”
Sherrie’s daughter, Mackenzie, a senior at Donaldson Academy, who has been a volunteer with One Generation Away since she was about 6 years old, agreed.
“Suffering through the tornado and then the pandemic is just unimaginable,” said Makenzie, who wants to study nursing to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. “So, it is just good to get out and help in the community.”
Grant Winrow, special assistant to TSU President Glenda Glover, who helped to coordinate the distribution on the TSU campus, said it is a wonderful opportunity for the university to partner with “anyone in the community that’s trying to do something philanthropic” for the citizens of Nashville.
“We are just a family here at TSU,” he said. “So, I think it is an opportunity for us to open up our resources to be able to assist anyway we can.”
Winrow credits former Metro Councilman Lonnell Matthews, Jr., a TSU alum, with also helping to coordinate the food distribution at TSU.
TSU also runs a food pantry for students facing temporary hardships. When campus is opened, donations to the Tiger Pantry can be dropped off at the Ralph H. Boston Wellness Center located next to the Gentry Center Monday through Friday from 7 am-5 pm.