There’s chicken being cooked on a grill outside of New Life Baptist Ministries, located on Janes Avenue on the East Side. It looks like a church cookout, but the buzz of people wearing gloves and hairnets, carrying cooked and uncooked food makes it feel like there is more than Bible passages and barbeque going on.
"I'm a retired veteran. I'm a disabled veteran. I served in the Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in the 82nd Airborne, so it has always been a passion of mine to serve people,” says Hattie S Norwood, one of the founders of Proactive Community Involvement.
“The coronavirus hit like no one expected and right now, there are families, at home, unable to feed themselves. Even prior to everything shutting down, they were struggling.
So I woke up at 6:55 in the morning, anxious over what was going on with the pandemic and how I could help. I just did a low-grade call to action to say ‘Hey, community people, let's do what we can. Meet here at 11 o’clock and whoever shows up, shows up.’
And all the people showed up and we got to moving. That’s why we call it Proactive Community Involvement, it's a community movement. It’s about unity and community and people coming together, especially during this critical time when people don’t think we can.”
The inside of the church has the energy of a Mission Command tent during war. There’s an assembly line system of volunteers who are cleaning, prepping, preparing, and packaging food donated by Wella's Kitchen Grabbing Crab, and Put A Fork In Me into brown paper bags that head out of the church doors to be delivered.
Co-founder Matt Clauss also says that while there are a lot of great community efforts serving food to people, they wanted to add the ability to deliver food directly to people's homes.
"Some people might be at work when food is handed out or they may lack a means of transportation, so we wanted to set it up so we can deliver meals directly to people where they live,” he says. “Even before the virus, this area was a food desert. When you look at the North and East Side, people have to go all the way to Bay Road or the Brockway Wal-mart to get groceries. So when they're not allowed to be in large groups or obtain food for themselves on a regular basis, it becomes even harder. A tough situation got a lot tougher."
The tough situation definitely got together, but the work PCI is doing made things a little easier - in the first week they cooked and delivered 778 meals.
“Monday was our first day and we made and delivered 35 meals. On Friday, we made and delivered 273,” Norwood says.
“I was put into this position by God, under God. Now we have the opportunity to provide for our families and other families. People can lose hope, so somebody’s got to get out there and be that little bit of hope.”