The line of vehicles wrapped around the parking lot of the Signal Hill Mall steadily moved along for hours as more than 100 volunteers loaded supplies at I-CARE's The Big Pop Event.
For Bryan Duncan, the executive director of I-CARE, it was simply living up to the organization's name.
"The intent of the day is to give folks some hope, to brighten their day a little bit, and show them some love, and to show some community," Duncan said.
Duncan said two months' worth of plans and organization came together on Thursday as household goods, supplies, food items, and other goods were given to each family that pulled up. There was also information from health care providers given out about changes to Medicaid, which Duncan said could affect many families and individuals that came through as well.
The direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated many poverty issues in the state, according to Duncan, which made Thursday's event even more needed for local families.
"People out here are still suffering. We had over 23,000 people in poverty in Iredell County, but that was pre-COVID. So COVID has made that number grow, so what you happen was people moved into situational poverty." Duncan said. "When you look out here and see all these cars lined up on this parking lot trying to make it through the line, it speaks to the need. We hope to give some hope, give some inspiration, and meet people where they are, and fulfill the needs they have. To make them smile, and let them know we care.
"This whole thing is about the community coming together."
Duncan said the event would not be possible without the support of cooperating partners, including Piedmont Health, the United Way, Case Farms, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Randy Marion, as well as the Walmart Foundation, Lowe’s Foundation, Food Lion, EnergyUnited, and Cheney Brothers Statesville. Duncan said there were more than 100 volunteers on hand at Signal Hill Mall, but that likely as many had helped pack bags and prepare for the event itself earlier in the week.
He also said Iredell Christian Ministries donated 982 emergency food boxes containing apple juice, quick oats, corn, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, peaches, chunk chicken, peanut butter, and white rice. The Salvation Army donated 200 emergency food boxes containing similar items.
"Many thanks to Iredell Christian Ministries and the Salvation Army. These food boxes were a huge contributor to meeting the food needs of families and, ultimately, to the success of the event," Duncan said.
I-CARE is part of the North Carolina Community Action Association, which held a similar event in Raleigh earlier this year. There will be other Big Pop Up events, according to Nafia Speaks, NCCAA's Training coordinator, said.
Speaks said the events look to attend to people's basic needs while going slightly beyond that thanks to donations from different groups.
"We already serve low-income communities, vulnerable populations, but with COVID, that's escalated everything and doubled the impact," Speaks said. "We came up with the idea to do the Big Pop Up, people helping people, to give to the community."
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