Dan Powell didn’t know exactly why he was chosen to get a fried chicken sandwich with a side item delivered to him for free last Thursday from Southern Hart Brewing Co., but he sure was happy to have it.
“Thank you. I’m not sure why you chose me, but I thank you,” said the 90-year-old Powell as Emily Reynolds of Southern Hart delivered the meal in a to-go box, neatly wrapped with a plastic bag.
Powell was the beneficiary of one of the many acts of kindness permeating Hart County in the past two weeks as the community hunkers down in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the face of an international pandemic.
The delivery process began a few days earlier when a woman, Jackie Jones, called the brewery and told co-owner Susanne Barfield she wanted to buy a $100 gift card, but wanted it to be used to feed elderly folks who could use the meals while they self quarantined at home. Barfield was happy to oblige and said Jones has not been the only one with that mindset.
“There have been so many random acts of kindness recently,” Barfield said.
Multiple people have called, purchased gift cards and asked that they be donated to someone who needs them, she said.
For Barfield, some of those have gone to her kitchen staff whose hours have been limited during the pandemic response. Others have gone to help folks like Powell.
Barfield, who also set up a free babysitting service in space the restaurant has upstairs above its dining room, prior to the local emergency declaration, said the donations of food and of supplies to aid the babysitting have been heartwarming and shows her how generous Hart County is.
“I don’t think we would see this in a bigger town” Barfield said.
Jones, of Hartwell, a fellow small business owner, said she wanted to both help someone in need and continue to patronize small local operations however she can.
“We were trying to wrack our brains about how we could help businesses and others who need help at the same time,” Jones said.
Most children have access to food through the school system’s culinary department, but many elderly people, those among the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, either can’t, or shouldn’t leave their homes, Jones said. So she decided to buy a few of them meals that could be delivered.
“I had really hoped this would help to get other folks doing the same thing,” she said.
Plus, she said it was a way to support a local business that is feeling the economic pain social distancing is causing by keeping people at home and out of restaurants and away from local merchants. Jones and her husband own After Hours Remodeling, a business that will be impacted as well she said.
“If you’re not supporting your local businesses, it hits two-fold,” Jones said.
Meal delivery is also brightening the days of some children in Hart County. The Hart County Charter System is offering breakfast and lunch to children under 18 years old at elementary schools. Culinary team members, teachers and administrators realized some families couldn’t make it to the schools to pick up the meals, so they asked bus drivers to help out and deliver them.
Miss Jenny Bartlett jumped at the chance to help out and has been delivering around a dozen meals each day from her bus through the impromptu program.
“I know a lot of parents are working and some kids are out there home alone,” Bartlett said. “They need some nourishing food at least once a day.”
The meals have been well received and in some cases, seeing the children is emotional for her, Bartlett said. Most children come running outside to greet her, she added.
“They’re just grinning ear to ear, so happy, it sort of breaks your heart,” Bartlett said.
Jeff Garner, transportation director for the school system, said six buses are running for deliveries with two drivers per bus, and “I have a long list of drivers who are eager to help. The response has been tremendous.”
The drivers, who like other school system employees are still getting paid during the statewide school shutdown, volunteered to deliver. Garner said one came back with tears in her eyes after seeing the conditions in which a family was living.
“There is certainly a need for this service in our community,” Garner said.
Culinary services director Courtney Hart said she has seen so many kind acts through the pickup and delivery of daily meals to Hart County’s children and families. The effort has truly been amazing from everyone, she said.
“I think it’s great,” Hart said. “I am so thankful for everyone pushing through this.”
She estimates between 1,000 and 1,500 breakfasts and lunches have been given out or delivered in the first week of the school shutdown. Ultimately, she said the goal is to ensure the children of Hart County are getting the nutrition they need in an uncertain time.