ROCKINGHAM — Local residents are gathering together to help new mothers get through the government shutdown.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that the funding had dried up for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. This will affect up to 400 families in Richmond County who have not obtained new vouchers as of Wednesday.
Tommy Jarell, county health director, could only think of those who would be hurt by this new development.
“I am deeply concerned about the infants and children of Richmond County,” Jarell said. “Perhaps my greatest fear is for those infants who must have infant formula.”
Beginning Wednesday, the county started working towards a solution. County Commissioner Don Bryant came up with a plan to get the entire community involved in helping these children.
Bryant recieved an email from Rick Sago, county manager, indicating the number of kids that would be affected. This caused Bryant to start thinking of ways to help. The answer is Operation KIND (Kids In Need).
“KIND is a new local organization that will gather donations and baby formula to help those in dire situations,” Bryant said.
Sago could only speak praises of Bryant’s efforts.
“It is disappointing that the federal shutdown is affecting the WIC program and the participants that depend on it. However, it is good news that Commissioner Bryant and the staff of the Richmond County Health and Social Services department are dedicated to pitching in and helping the clients that are affected by the cutoff in Federal Funds,” Sago said. “We are lucky to have County Commissioners and county employees that are willing to do everything they can to serve our citizens.”
With the help of Heather Craven, secretary and treasurer to the new organization, Bryant was able to set up an account at First Bank in KIND’s name. He will be able to deposit funds into the account, but only Jarell and Schrenker will be able to write checks to get the money where it is needed, Bryant said.
Bryant began to spread the word early Wednesday morning. Schrenker, Jarell and Stevenson were among the first to latch on to the organization.
“I have not heard of another county in North Carolina taking this step. It really is an amazing thing,” Schrenker said.
Schrenker also added that KIND is now partnered with the Baptist Association, United Way, and Walmart to help raise donations and awareness.
Collection buckets will begin to show up around the county. One is currently sitting at Bryant’s Turf and Landscaping collecting whatever is given.
“Every little bit helps. Even pocket change,” Bryant said.
There will be a table at Walmart located in Rockingham from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday. It will be located on the grocery side of the store.
“I just want everyone to know that 100 percent of the money will stay in Richmond County,” Shrenker said. “And 100 percent will go to the kids. There is no overhead.”
Saquana Miller-Stevenson, a local WIC supervisor, said that approximately 250 pregnant moms are due to deliver soon. Odds are that some of those new mothers would normally request help through the WIC program.
“We are worried there won’t be any formula for these new mothers,” Stevenson said.
Tammy Schrenker, director of social services, said that infant formula now costs around $15 per can and babies can sometimes go through a can a day — which could mean $450 or more per month.
“We as a community must do what we can to help ensure the nutritional needs of our infants and children are taken care of,” Jarell said.