Tahlequah Area Coalition for the Homeless seeks help to make sandwiches amid pandemic
People wait outside of the Tahlequah Day Center on July 21 as employees gather bagged meals, which typically include two sandwiches, fruit and a drink with the occasional bag of chips or snack cake. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Billie White, Tahlequah Day Center cook, makes sandwiches before people start arriving at the Tahlequah Day Center on July 21 to pick up their meals. The center offers assistance to the homeless and those who have fallen on hard times. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Bagged lunches made by Tahlequah Area Coalition for the Homeless volunteers and Tahlequah Day Center employees sit prepared on July 21 for individuals who are in need. The TACH is serving approximately double the amount of meals due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is need of more volunteers to help make sandwiches. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than usual are in need of assistance especially when it comes to food. Jay Jones, Tahlequah Area Coalition for the Homeless president, said this summer the coalition is feeding anywhere from “130 to 150” people a day when numbers typically average “60 to 70.”
Because of elevated numbers of people needing food, Jones said TACH needs more volunteers.
“We need more people making sandwiches. We have people that have started giving us money online through PayPal to help us pay for the sandwiches,” he said. “Right now, we’re spending about $500 a week just to buy the food to make the lunches and hand them out besides all of the people who are making sandwiches for us and dropping them off.”
Jones said there is a volunteer calendar and each day there are typically two people, or groups, making 48 sandwiches a piece. However, with more people in need Tahlequah Day Center employees are helping make extra sandwiches.
“On the days when we don’t have enough people making sandwiches we have people there at the Day Center making the extra sandwiches to pass them out because right now we don’t have enough people making sandwiches to feed the numbers of people that we’re doing,” he said.
Jones said the meals typically consist of two sandwiches, fruit and a drink with the occasional bag of chips or snack cake.
After seeing a need for volunteers, Cherokee Heritage Center membership coordinator Becky Adair got with coworkers to help make sandwiches. Adair said this was not her or the CHC’s first time helping.
“Myself and my sister have been a part of the Tahlequah Area Coalition for the Homeless for a little bit before the heritage center got involved,” she said. “I knew that I had coworkers that would be very willing to help with it. I think it was in 2018, we started making the sandwiches.”
She said CHC had stopped due to the busy tourism season, but because of the pandemic they were able to help make sandwiches again. She added that four to six employees help make sandwiches and all of the items and time is donated by the CHC.
Adair said coming together to provide for the community “has always been a Cherokee trait.”
“I think that when we see that there is a need whether it’s to feed a child or feed an adult that’s our calling to kind of bring back that community kinship. It’s just something that we have always done,” she said. “It’s not anything that has to so with our (CHC) mission but I think it’s something that we as Cherokee people feel compelled to do to help other people when they need it.”
TACH began in 2015 after Jones heard from an individual who was experiencing homelessness and struggled to get a job because of it.
“He told us the first thing that needed to happen that would have helped him would have been a place to take a shower and a place to eat and a place to get some clean clothes to wear,” he said.
After a sleepless night, Jones said he searched the internet to see what others were doing to help the homeless. Then he stumbled upon a program that recruited volunteers to make sandwiches.
“The next morning I just went to the grocery store and got stuff and started making sandwiches. I bought bottles of water and fruit and I just started handing out sandwiches and bottles of water and fruit to people who were living on the street,” he said.
Since inception, Jones said TACH has grown from feeding people every other day to every day. TACH worked with the Zoë Institute to established the Tahlequah Day Center to ensure people had necessities and help them with obtaining driver’s licenses and Social Security cards.
For information, call 918-453-9778, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or “join” the Tahlequah Area for the Homeless public Facebook group.