Mandi Pittman sits at a picnic bench behind the Grace Community Church offices on a warm spring morning in Marion, NC, talking about her passion in life. “Most people don’t understand how rewarding it is for you to serve others,’’ Pittman, Outreach Director at Grace, told 11th Congressional District Democratic nominee Moe Davis when he visited recently to learn about their program.
Pittman has helped serve the community in McDowell County for years, working to arrange food deliveries and more to those in need. But when the coronavirus pandemic left so many stuck at home, without incomes and desperate for help, the need grew rapidly just as reaching out became much more difficult.
So Pittman and her team created McDowellCares.com, a website devoted to helping people not only in McDowell County, but in Buncombe, Avery, Rutherford, Mitchell, and Burke counties as well. Through the website, her team at Grace Community Church is feeding families, helping with bills, delivering prescription medicine to the homebound, providing masks for nursing homes, and more.
Pittman has seen the need firsthand. “I’ve been in a house where all they have is a few eggs and maybe a box of cereal,’’’ Pittman said. “Some of them I’ve been into were dirt floors. People don’t know that. People don’t have a clue.”Pittman said that before the pandemic, they were delivering about 180 food boxes to elementary schools each week that were distributed to those in need over the weekend. In addition, they were serving 75 to 100 people each Wednesday at their food pantry.
After the pandemic hit, those numbers soared. The weekend food boxes now feed 400 families and the Wednesday pantry now provides food for 100-120 people. In addition, they have a Wednesday delivery to homes that feeds 65-70 families and an extra Saturday pantry that provides food for 175 people.
Members of the Grace Community Church have contributed to meet the need, and Pittman has applied for and received grants, including one that helped her purchase pork and beef. Local residents, including former 2020 Congressional candidate Vance Patterson, have stepped up as well to help fund the program.
But the more they have, the more they can help those in need. So donations are always welcome. Those who want to contribute can go to McDowellCares.com to see how to help. Or just reach out to Mandi. She would love to talk to you, which is why she is making her phone number and email public: [email protected], 828-559-5211
“We’re fortunate to have organizations like McDowell Cares and dedicated individuals like Mandi Pittman who are there to extend a hand to folks needing some help,’’ Moe Davis said. “That’s been particularly valuable during this COVID-19 period. Mandi and her team reflect the best of Western North Carolina.”