“I had a friend, an older lady who has passed since then—her name was Ms. Ivy Hornsby—and she went to church with me. She got to talking about how she was volunteering at the [United Ministries]. It caught my attention, so I started volunteering when I had the opportunity.”
Ten years later, Sherry is now the showrunner of United Ministries Food Bank, a United Way partner agency in Robertson County. She does so on an entirely volunteer basis.
“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community. And I feel very fortunate with the life I’ve led. I look out and I see so many people that are struggling and it was a good opportunity to try to help those people that were in need.”
While Robertson County might be a small community, Sherry says the need is great—and has been more so since the pandemic hit.
“Unlike a lot of the other communities that surround Nashville, we have a lot of poor people that live in our community. ‘Poor’ meaning they don’t have a lot of funding: the living poor, the working poor. We have people that have jobs but are not making enough money to really support their families in the means that they would like to and therefore they come to the food bank to get assistance.”
She says right when COVID-19 hit the community, they saw a huge increase in need. Even though it’s quieted down, she worries that’s because a lot of seniors and immunocompromised folks are fearful to come in. United Ministries quickly adapted to the pandemic and began setting up tables outside, so that anyone in need can simply drive up to the building with as little contact as possible.
Sherry says one thing that sticks out to her about Robertson County is the generosity of its community members.
“When we have a need, we just put out a request and it seems like people sort of flock to us to try to help.”
United Ministries typically hosts two major food pantries through Second Harvest each year—in the spring and the fall—thanks to the support of sponsors. The end of September arrived and no one had offered to sponsor the pantry, which meant hundreds of neighbors who were hurting wouldn’t have access to food they were relying on.
Sherry put an op-ed in the local paper: a battle cry to her neighbors.
Several individuals stepped forward and said they would do whatever it took to make sure the pantry took place. Then Springfield Utilities and the Tennessee Valley Authority stepped up to help as well. Sherry says with the corporate support, they’ll be able to use the money from the individuals to provide holiday meals and put the corporate dollars toward the pantry that hundreds were relying on.
“All I’ve got to do is just ask people to step up and usually they’ll step up,” she says. “With the drive-through pantry in April, we had over 350 families drive through so we know that we’re making a connection with people that need the food.”
And with the holidays, she knows the need will continue to grow.
“I know that there’s a lot of families that sit down for the holidays and just don’t have the feast that a lot of us get to have during the holidays. And so for the last five years now we’ve had at least 200 families that have been able to have that Thanksgiving meal and also the Christmas meal. We’ve been trying to put together ways of helping them have a more normal life, a more enjoyable life.”