Need Line of Murray-Calloway County is expanding both off and on campus this winter, as the organization moves into a new building and helps begin a campus food pantry.
Need Line, a non-profit service agency in Calloway County, has been active in the community since 1974. It provides food for those in need, as well as other basic necessities such as blankets and toiletries.
Tonia Casey, the executive director of Need Line, said the applications for assistance really started increasing three years ago, with the downturn of the economy. Because of the increase in applications for food and aid, she began the search for a grant to help with the purchase of a new building.
Casey got the call about the block grant two years ago. The grant, which comes from the federal government, is only approved for a few organizations in the entire state. For six months, Casey and her employees had to survey clients to ensure Need Line met the requirements for the money. After the six months, the grant was written, and Need Line was approved.
Now, the last installment on the new Need Line facility has been paid and Casey is beginning the work of moving supplies from the old location to the new building on N. 8th Street.
Casey said when she moved Need Line into the current facility, she never would have dreamed they would need more space. But with over a thousand applications for aid every month, the old building could no longer sustain the work done by Need Line’s employees and volunteers. The building is 4,000 square feet larger than the building Need Line is leaving behind, and Casey said she is very excited about the possibilities for the new location.
Some of the programs Need Line currently offer include the Senior Food Program, which provides groceries for 250 senior citizens of Murray and Calloway County, as well as the Backpack Program.
The Backpack Program is coordinated by Need Line, but local churches collect food. The food is distributed every Friday of the school year to children at area schools that teachers have recognized as being in need. Casey said if it were not for the Backpack Program, some children would not eat over the weekend.
Casey said she is proud of the work done by Need Line and its volunteers.
“We’re not federally or state funded,” she said. “We’re able to help when a government or state agency turns someone down.”
Casey said on average Need Line has 75 volunteers a week, approximately half of whom are Murray State students.
“I’m excited about the new building – it’s a great opportunity to better serve families in the community, but also to create more volunteer opportunities,” she said.
Casey hopes Need Line will be fully operational in the new building by the first week in December.
In addition to the new facility, Need Line is partnering with Murray State to create a campus food bank.
Racers Helping Racers is the brainchild of Re’Nita Avery-Meriwether, director of Student Life and the Curris Center.
Avery-Meriwether said she attended a conference three years ago and one of the sessions dealt with campus food pantries.
“I came back with the idea that Murray State could do this for our students,” she said.
Avery-Meriwether said she has seen that hunger is a problem in the student body, and she feels there is a real need for this food pantry. She also believes it is a way for students to give back, as all of the food will come from donations.
Through partnership with Need Line, Racers Helping Racers will offer a number of food items to students free of charge.
All donations go first to Need Line, and then from the Need Line facility specific items will be taken to campus, where they will be put in the food pantry. The new food pantry will open at the beginning of the spring 2014 semester on the second floor of Blackburn Science Building.
Casey is enthusiastic about the new program and the partnership with Murray State.
“The University is so supportive of Need Line and always has been this is just one more great example of that,” she said.
The connection between Murray State and Need Line extends far beyond Racers Helping Racers. For years, students have donated their time as well as cans of food to Need Line.
One organization on campus, Lambda Chi Alpha, has had an impact with their work for the food pantry.
Daniel Hughes, junior from Murray, is a Lambda Chi. He has been involved with food drives for Need Line for the last few years.
“Each year we’ve tried to amass as much food for our local pantry as possible,” Hughes said.
Last year Lambda Chi Alpha donated more than 20,000 pounds of food to Need Line. One event, Watermelon Bust, works with sororities to get food for Need Line. He said Alpha Omicron Pi raised the most cans this past Bust, with 4,385. “Each year we have a good turnout, and it’s thanks to this giving community,” Hughes said.
Lambda Chi Alpha has already collected approximately 23,000 pounds of food this semester, and their goal for the year is 25,000 pounds.
Story by Kate Russell, Staff writer