Editor’s note: In everything, even a pandemic, there is a bright spot. This is the first in a series highlight local, positive entities and people who have made an impact during the year.

Mission Marshall has not only survived 2020, but thrived this year, serving considerably more than on average and expanding their coverage to both Harrison and Marion County residents.

Director of the food pantry Misty Scott said that none of that would have been possible this year, if it were not for the tremendous outpouring of support from community members.

“The support we have received has just blown us away,” Scott said. “Living in this community has always made us proud, but this year we would not have been able to support any of the families that we did without the help of the community.”

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, and the shutdown of local businesses that resulted, Mission Marshall saw a rise in need this year.

Scott said that they also faced new challenges, including changing the way that they distribute food to community members, along with simply keeping enough supply to meet the ongoing demand.

Not only was there a greater need in community members within Harrison County, but Scott said that the pantry saw a rise in community members coming over from the neighboring Marion County in search of extra support.

Scott previously explained that it was the pantry’s policy at the time to help the Marion county resident for one month, as well as provide them with resources to the pantries in their county. However, Scott said that they found that a number of those residents were already aware of the local pantries, but that they simply were unable to provide enough food for the current need in the community.

So, in October, the board of directors at Mission Marshall opted to increase their coverage area, and provide monthly support for residents of both counties. Scott said that now, it is all about getting the word out, and making sure that those who may have been turned away before after the first month know that they can now return to Mission Marshall.

This continued increase in the amount of support provided by Mission Marshall was able to be accomplished this year in large part to the continued support from local community members and organizations.

Scott said that it is thanks to community efforts like UpliftETX, an organization that was created to provide a month long fundraiser and food drive in support of Mission Marshall earlier this year, and the Harrison County Agrilife group that is currently hosting a large holiday food drive competition to support the organization, that the food pantry has been able to operate in the capacity that it has.

Additionally, Scott said that in some small ways she is grateful that the pandemic has forced the food pantry to think critically and creatively about the way that they serve the community.

This has led to a new program that Mission Marshall is planning to unveil early 2021 that allows community members to complete all of their paperwork for the food pantry online, including allowing customers to individually select the items they wish to receive and in what quantities.

Scott said that before COVID-19 community members were able to walk through the pantry that was set up in a grocery store style, and select their own products.

However, since the outbreak, Mission Marshall Volunteers have been selecting and boxing monthly food packages for community members in need. Scott said that this new program allows them to digitally go back to the preferred grocery store style distribution, and make sure that community members get the food that they actually want and need.

Additionally, Scott said that to help assist community members who may suffer from bad eye sight or literacy issues, the selection process will be mainly visual.

The online process also allows congestion in the food pantry to be limited, and allows a much more stream lined process for many community members with jobs or other obligations that force them to have a limited time available to visit.

Scott said that if it were not for the outbreak of COVID-19, none of these changes would be in the works for next year.

“There is always a bright spot, in everything,” Scott said.

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