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SALISBURY – A group of cars congregated in the Hurley YMCA parking lot Thursday morning to be loaded with hams, biscuits and Easter baskets to benefit families of local school children.

The THREE WIDE Foundation, a local nonprofit, brought 230 hams to give out as people filtered into the parking lot. Everyone was spaced far apart, wearing gloves and masks and food was passed through car windows — all of which were special precautions being taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve and Donna Thomas started the foundation years ago after learning about the number of children in Rowan County who are food insecure or homeless at their church. The foundation started with Christmas dinners and has expanded since.

“We typically deliver these hams to the schools, but with everything going on right now we decided to do this,” Steve said.

The hams are given to managed students at schools served by Communities in Schools Rowan, another nonprofit that works inside local schools. The foundation does not associate with the children directly, only coordinating how much food to bring and distributing it.

“Neighbors and friends, family — that’s who our volunteers are this morning — because a lot of people don’t want to touch this,” Donna said.

The group started at 6 a.m., picking up the hams, unboxing them and moving them into sealed bags.

“It takes a whole lot of people willing to give their love and their time,” Donna said.

Cindy Martin is a neighbor and close friend of the Thomases who volunteers with the foundation. She is retired and has the time to help with the foundation’s distributions.

Martin said she never expected to be involved with the virus

CIS Rowan Executive Director Ron Turbyfill said the organization has full-time staff in the eight schools the organization works in and connects with students in need throughout the year. Six schools benefit from the ham distribution.

“We case manage 10%, so we work directly with those students with tutoring,” Turbyfill said. “We take care of basic needs for all 3,300. We supply school supplies all year.”

Turbyfill was surprised by the setup, but not the activity that morning. He did not expect to ever need to wear a face mask and gloves while serving children

“I started 41 years ago as a school teacher and spent my entire adult life working in schools. So this is my gig. This is my passion,” Turbyfill said.


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