Callahan resident Jodie and her husband adopted 10 children, ages 5-13, from two families to keep the siblings together. They had been fostering and made the long-term commitment to these children in need. Then, the Coronavirus pandemic drastically changed the course of their lives.
Jodie was working as a substitute teacher and had two other part-time jobs. But, like so many individuals in Nassau County, she became unemployed without much notice. Her husband is also unemployed. How do you feed 10 children without an income? Jodie learned about Barnabas Center’s numerous food distributions, including weekly food assistance at First Baptist Church in Callahan, and said she is deeply grateful that Barnabas helped her through a tough time.
“Barnabas is a lifesaver,” said Jodie. “The fresh produce has been great and I’m able to also pick up canned goods like peanut butter, apple sauce and tuna. Feeding a family of 12 was going okay when I was working, but I couldn’t have done it without Barnabas’ support.”
Barnabas continues to be on the front lines, responding to the needs of Nassau County residents who are affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Barnabas helps people who are hungry or food insecure, need financial assistance, or who are uninsured and need medical and dental care. If you or someone you know needs help, contact Barnabas Center at 904-261-7000. You will be given detailed information that will guide you to the services you need.
“The ongoing pandemic has resulted in Barnabas experiencing a 300 percent increase in people needing services for basic needs such as food, including more than half of those people who have never before needed help,” said Wanda Lanier, Barnabas CEO. “The most significant factor has been the sudden loss of jobs at the start of the pandemic, which continues today with the county’s 15 percent unemployment rate. Many people are still struggling and unable to pay bills and feed their families. By providing food, financial assistance for rent, mortgage and utility payments, and health care, Barnabas helps stabilize individuals and families until they can return to work.”
Since April, Barnabas has held more than 100 food distributions across Nassau County, reaching over 21,000 people in nearly 6,600 households. And with the need growing every day, Barnabas has expanded food assistance efforts through its mobile food distributions, targeting rural areas of the county and hardest hit populations.
Barnabas offers produce and other food through weekly distributions in Callahan, Hilliard and Fernandina Beach, and at the drive-thru food pantry on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Barnabas Center, 1303 Jasmine St., Fernandina Beach. The schedule for weekly food assistance is posted on barnabasnassau.org/about-us/events.
“We also continue to provide financial assistance to help individuals and families affected by the pandemic with rent, mortgage, utility and other essential bill payments. Since April, we’ve helped 167 households with financial assistance, totaling $199,618,” Lanier said in September. “Although there has been a moratorium on rental evictions, the amount of past due rent will become due when the moratorium is lifted. So, it is important that renters seek assistance now to avoid potential homelessness, if they are unable to pay past due rent.”
Recently, Barnabas was awarded Nassau CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding to assist individuals and households with rent and mortgage payments. Eligible applicants must be Nassau County residents and meet certain income guidelines. Applicants must demonstrate that they have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including loss of income due to job loss, reduction in work hours, inadequate unemployment benefits, illness or other circumstances. Individuals or households that have received previous assistance from Barnabas or the Nassau County CARES Act program may qualify.
County residents impacted by the pandemic can contact Barnabas to get connected to the help they need. For more information, call the Barnabas main office at 904-261-7000 or visit www.BarnabasNassau.org.