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‘Helping Hands’ fill local need

GATESVILLE – Yvonne Batts is used to giving people something to eat. It was something she did regularly even before she and her husband started Helping Hands Outreach Ministry 12 years ago.

But now, as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, she’s been working more than ever to make sure people don’t go hungry.

“Everybody needs food,” Batts said. “We just want to make sure to help and be a blessing for people that are going through it this time. It’s not easy. I know it’s not easy.”

Yvonne and Patrick Batts founded the Helping Hands Outreach Ministry. Contributed Photo

Batts and several volunteers work together each year during the holiday season to make free Christmas dinner food boxes for people. This year, they gave away 100 boxes filled to the brim with food at a drive-thru event to make it safer for everyone involved. The event was held on Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Gates County Community Center.

“We try to give them everything they need for the Christmas meal,” she explained.

The boxes contained several food items such as stuffing, rice, vegetables, cake mix, eggs, and more. There were different meats available too, including pork loin, whole chickens, and turkeys. Batts said they packed the boxes according to how many people were in a family, so that a single person would receive a smaller box than a family of four or more.

A lot of the food was donated, but also some of it was purchased from monetary donations. Batts said she was extremely grateful for her Facebook friends who often donate to make sure they have enough for each food giveaway.

“My program is a community program,” Batts explained, noting they’re a nonprofit not connected to a church.

“Everyone is welcome to the food,” she continued. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. No discrimination. Everybody is welcome because everybody has a need at this time.”

When the pandemic started, Batts saw how more people than ever were in need—whether through sudden unemployment or battling the virus or going through quarantine—so they started expanding their outreach.

In May, volunteers helped make care packages for seniors. They passed out essentials like masks and toiletries to people who needed them. They expanded outside of Gates County, hosting a food giveaway in Virginia, and later serving meals to tornado victims and first responders in Bertie County twice after Hurricane Isaias came through this year.

Batts recalled times in the past when people helped her family out, so she understands what it’s like. She also understands how devastating COVID-19 can be. She got sick in March, just when the pandemic was beginning. Her fever got up as high as 107 degrees, and doctors told her she was lucky to be alive.

“I felt like I was dying,” she said. “God brought me through. I’m grateful. I don’t take life for granted.”

For now, she plans to keep doing more food giveaways as often as possible while the pandemic continues.

“I try to do what I can to help people. That’s just my passion,” she explained.

For more information about the ministry or to learn more about donating, contact Yvonne Batts at 252-619-6015 or on Facebook.