With operations in full swing since late 1990, Cooperative Emergency Outreach volunteers have worked tirelessly not only providing for those with food insecurity, but assisting with other needs such as utilities, transportation, clothing, rent and prescriptions.
In February, CEO was named one of two Agencies of the Year by the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. CEO received a $1,000 grant that was used recently to replenish its food pantry. The organization is supported by 22 churches in southern Washington County and serves residents from those communities – Fayetteville, Cane Hill, Elkins, Farmington, Greenland, Goshen, Lincoln, Prairie Grove, Summers, West Fork and Winslow.
Originally housed in the old Washington County Jail, it moved three years later to a building on Rock Street near the Fayetteville Public Library. It moved to its current location in August 2013 and doubled in size. Thanks to a capital campaign and generous donations, the building was paid for in two years, said Maxine LeBlanc, assistant food room manager and lead daily manager.With no paid staff, CEO relies on its 150 volunteers to run the day-to-day operations.
Open from 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, it takes nine to 10 volunteers each day to help meet the needs of its clients.
“We’re here to serve the needs of our clients,” said Michele Del Sol, Food Room coordinator for four years of the five years she has worked at CEO.
In meeting the needs of the food insecure, clients are allowed to receive three days of food up to three times over a six-month period. A grid, based on the family’s size, is used to determine how much food is given. In addition, the daily manager has $750 a day to spend on clothing at thrift stores, utilities, prescriptions and rent assistance. The manager ensures there are funds available for the 25 clients assisted each day. CEO is not a sustaining organization, LeBlanc said. If a family needs further food assistance, they have access to other food pantries in the area, she added.
Each of the participating churches holds two food drives a year, she said, but some of the churches are small, so the drives don’t meet all the needs of CEO. In addition, the annual post office food drive helps. The church members also make monetary donations to CEO as well as supply four volunteers a month, but everyone does more than that, added LeBlanc, a retired school teacher who has worked at CEO since 2002.
However, monetary donations to CEO enable it to purchase a majority of its food from the Food Bank, which supplies approximately 60 percent of CEO’s food needs. The remaining 40 percent comes from other sources, such as the churches. There is always emergency food available, LeBlanc added. There also are meals for the homeless that don’t need to be cooked.
With school almost out for the summer, CEO will see an increase in clients to help supplement the kids being home.“It’s satisfying working to help the poor,” LeBlanc said. “I enjoy helping out. I was brought up that way.” The volunteers are so dedicated and it is wonderful seeing the love from the volunteers, Del Sol added.
For more information, contact CEO at www.ceofayetteville.org or call 479-444-7500.
CEO member churches:
Buckner Baptist, Central United Methodist, Community Christian, East Side Baptist, Emmanuel Lutheran, Farmington United Methodist, Fayetteville Friends (Quakers), First Baptist Farmington, First Baptist Fayetteville, First Baptist West Fork, First Christian Fayetteville, First United Presbyterian, Good Shephard Lutheran, Grace Cumberland Presbyterian, Rolling Hills Baptist, St. John’s Lutheran, St. Joseph’s Catholic, St. Paul’s Episcopal, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic, Sequoyah United Methodist, Southside Baptist and Trinity United Methodist.