Community comes together after food pantry fire - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Community comes together after food pantry fire

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It took less than 24 hours for people from all walks of life to come forward to assist those in need after a food pantry burned down on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Twice a month, the Good Samaritan Food Pantry provides meals to 3,500 people in Richlands, VA and the surrounding areas.  Thursday night's blaze burned at least three quarters of their entire stock of food.  The fire happened at one of the worst possible times, just one day before families showed up to collect what the food pantry had prepared. Good Samaritan hands out food on Tuesdays and Fridays.

"Everything was lost besides what we had in the freezers," said Ralph Mullins, the Manager at Good Samaritan. "We had everything ready for our government food next week. We really lost a lot of food from the government."

David Robinson, is a person who relies on the meals that are provided by the food pantry.

"It's devastation. It's hurtful to hear something like this has happened," stated Robinson. "It's really hurt the community, especially the people that need it. We are in such desperate times."

Those who rely on the food pantry aren't the only ones shocked by the fire.  Local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and seniors on the Richlands High School football team, as well as other organizations and volunteers, immediately sprung into action.

"It's unbelievable. The food pantry is a big part of our community," said Richlands Senior, Frank Taylor. "When we heard it was on fire, we hoped it was small. When we saw the damage this morning, it was devastating. We are really heartbroken for everyone."

"We got a call today at school. The principal came to us and asked if we'd help the food pantry after the fire," added Taylor. "We were right on it. We quickly changed into clothes to work in and got down here as soon as we could.> 

The food distribution was done at the Richlands Police Department on Friday and families were able to pick up the food that was saved from the fire.  David Robinson shared his appreciation for those who came together to help out in this time of need.

"If it wasn't for them we wouldn't know what we would do. We're very thankful to the community for those who are helping out. We are very grateful."

Ralph Mullins said that the fire was electrical and started with a bad fuse in the breaker box.  He will be meeting with the Richlands Area Ministerial Association to decide whether or not they can rebuild.  Meanwhile, 59News and Ramey Automotive are teaming up to keep the food pantry's mission alive.  Donations of money or non-perishable food items can be made at Ramey Automotive Richlands, Ramey Ford in Beckley, and Ramey Chrysler in Princeton through Friday, Feb. 28