LIVE OAK, Fla. — The staff at the Melody Church Thrift Store wanted to do something.

When the news broke March 13 that schools across the state were closing for two weeks, discussions began at the Melody Thrift Store on how could they help out in Live Oak.

The solution: brown bag lunches for the students who now wouldn’t be receiving one at school.

“Our staff was talking and trying to figure out different ways that we could bless the community and this was what our staff decided upon,” said Heidi Hofer. “We just knew that kids depend on their school lunches.”

They have helped provide those lunches all last week and are continuing through this Friday. They serve, starting at 10:30 a.m. until they are out of lunches, out in front of the store on Ohio Ave. South and also deliver to apartment complexes around town, including Phillips Pines, Village Oaks, Silas Oaks, Horizon Circle, the Wayne Frier mobile home park and McMillan Heights.

And business has picked up. What began with 175 lunches served March 16 hit 300 before the end of last week.

“When we go into the neighborhoods, they now are looking for my car coming and then they’re telling their friends,” said Hofer, who delivers the lunches out of the back of her vehicle.

The Melody Thrift Store has also been serving up more than lunch — on Friday, the lunches included a pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with a bag of chips, a pack of cookies as well as a piece of fruit and a drink.

In addition to the nourishment for the body, the group has also been providing nourishment for the mind, too. They serve up free books along with the meals.

“They’ve been very popular. It’s been great,” Hofer said. “We just wanted to make sure the kids are still reading and doing something. So they’re not just sitting at home and watching TV.

“A lot of libraries have shut down, so parents don’t have access to that even and if they don’t have books at home or if they’ve already read that same book a million times, we just wanted to make sure they were still reading.”

That desire to fill a need in the community during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has sparked something in others, too. Hofer said after the staff came up with the idea March 13 or 14, they announced it at the Melody Church service March 15 and received the backing and donations to supply the lunches for the first week.

Since, community members have provided donations that allowed the group to expand it through this week when the Suwannee County School District’s food service department will begin providing food starting March 30.

Hofer said one company donated boxes of graham crackers. Somebody brought in grapefruit from a tree in their yard. Hoover Family Farms Produce Market supplied a box of tangerines that became the fruit in Friday’s bag. The Suwannee High ROTC donated Powerades since there is no current need for concession stands at sporting events.

“This is just one way that we could help the community,” Hofer said.

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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