GAULEY BRIDGE — For the sixth consecutive year, a group of volunteers who are family members and friends gathered together to conduct a Christmas food drive.

Because of Covid-19, things went a little differently this year.

Vicky Underwood, the driving force behind the annual event, said she and her friends realized that, because of the pandemic, their neighbors were in need, so they changed things around.

“We always took our food to EnAct in Montgomery,” she said, adding that, this year, “we wanted to do something closer to home because we’re kind of stuck in the middle where things aren’t so close to get to, and there’s a lot of need right now. People are struggling, especially this time of the year, and even more with the pandemic.”

Underwood contacted the United Way of Southern West Virginia, as well as City National Bank, in hopes of receiving financial help in the midst of a pandemic that has forced many individuals to cut back on their charitable giving.

“I thought, ‘how am I gonna get the money?’ My first phone call was United Way in Beckley. Along with them and City National, we were able to obtain $1000. I thought, ‘Well that’s probably not enough’ and decided to start (an online fundraiser) and it just took off from there. People gave me checks, cash and some food donations as well. In total we were able to raise way over $2,000,” she said.

With the donated funds and the food donations, the group was able to set up a drive-by give-away in Gauley Bridge. The give-away was set to last 3 hours on Sunday, Dec. 13, and each family was to receive a Christmas food box and a turkey, but the need was greater than anticipated.

“We were able to feed 95 families and gave away our boxes in 40 minutes. The sad part is we had to turn people away,” Underwood said. “So if you’re reading this, please keep us in mind next year and give or donate if you can. We hope next year is bigger and better.”

The food boxes were passed out in memory of a woman who pitched in to help with the project the previous five years of its existence.

“I had so much help and so many good people that worked their butts off trying to make this happen,” Underwood said. “Our dear friend, Pam Boles, passed away Oct. 14 and would have been right there with us. In tribute we donated our boxes in memory of her,” she said. Also as a memorial to Boles, the Town of Gauley Bridge’s longtime secretary and office manager, several members of her family and her friends volunteered to help pack the boxes and work the day of the give-away.

“We had a great time doing it and loved seeing everyone,” Underwood said, “especially people like the Boles family and Missy and Bub Kise and others who help every year.”

Email ckeenan@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter at Fayette_Cheryl

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