Greenville YMCA uses new van for community food services

The Greenville YMCA has a new tool to expand its mobile mission of providing food and services to the community.

On Friday, the organization unveiled the vehicle that will be used to enhance its “Y on the Fly” program. The new Dodge Ram ProMaster van that will allow YMCA staff and volunteers to provide food and services to more children, families and seniors.

‘Y on the Fly’ is a Y without walls, offering staff and volunteers a way to raise community awareness in many ways,” said Parks McCleod, Chairman of the Board of the YMCA of Greenville Foundation.

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The Greenville YMCA began its efforts to help alleviate food insecurity in 2020 when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Diana Watson, the organization’s director of philanthropy.

Greenville County Schools and LiveWell Greenville informed the organization that children who normally rely on schools for breakfast and lunch were not getting the food they needed, Watson said.

“Greenville County schools were doing a huge distribution, where they were giving out (food) to county schools, but there were families living in hotels that were technically homeless, struggling with transportation issues, access to grocery stores, that sort of thing,” Watson said.

“We said, ‘We can load up and bring food to these families,'” Watson said. “We thought it might be a short-term thing.”

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Instead, she said, it became continuous.

YMCA Greenville now provides food to approximately 200 families per week and handles food bagging and packaging from two locations. The program not only provides food to families at hotels, but also to veterans at the VA Outpatient Center, residents of Gateway House and individual families identified by schools in Greenville County, Watson said.

The “Y on the Fly” van will be used to transport and deliver food, as well as provide other community services such as holding nutrition classes in Nicholtown or yoga classes in the parking lot in the Parker community, she said.

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“Y on the Fly” is supported by grants provided by the YMCA of Greenville Foundation, the Holiday Sunshine Fund and Fall for Greenville. The food program itself is funded by the annual YMCA campaign, as well as donations from YMCA members.

“We are so grateful to everyone who has donated to the Holiday Sunshine Fund, Greenville News and WYFF for continuing this effort because as you can see it is making a tangible difference for our neighbors,” Watson said.

Susan Beam said being one of the volunteers delivering groceries has changed her life.

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“I’ve been doing this for about a year and I think the first time we went to deliver I had no idea these poor neighborhoods backed onto some of the more affluent neighborhoods in Greenville. Once you see a jet of stone, you cannot fail to see it,” she said.

“I’m thankful and thankful to be able to do this,” Beam said. “It’s an amazing program and you can see we’re really making a difference.

“The van is the validation of that hard work. Instead of having to load up our cars, we now have a van. I love it,” she said.

The food delivered by “Y on the Fly” consists mainly of common and non-perishable items. Examples include peanut butter, jelly, granola bars, canned food, microwaveable meals, some breads, and fruit.

“Some of our families are transient. Some of them live in motels. They don’t have access to full kitchens,” Watson said. “We want to make sure that what we give is something they can prepare and eat. We really try to think about who we serve, their situation and what we put in the bags.”