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huntsville, alabama, city

Hartselle’s hungry and homeless population skyrocketing during pandemic

HARTSELLE, Ala. – Two local women have their fingers on the pulse of need in the city of Hartselle, and they say that need has grown astronomically since the start of COVID-19.

Feeding Families Director E’dee Grun told News 19 she’s gone from helping dozens to helping hundreds.

“The need in Hartselle has been overwhelming, almost,” Grun said.

Countless people lost their jobs during the pandemic and came to Grun looking for help, especially when food flew off grocery store shelves and those with a strict budget could not provide for themselves.

“It went up to eight hundred plus per week that we’re giving out food for.”

Grun sympathizes for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“It can happen to you overnight, you can lose your income overnight and all your savings can be gone overnight, and I’m a prime example of that,” she said.

Grun has beaten cancer, but she says no matter how many jobs she worked, she still found herself homeless looking for ways to pay her medical bills.

“I know what it’s like, sleeping with my kids in the car because I had nowhere else to go.”

She gives her all to feeding families, but the need is simply too high right now. Since the pandemic started, Grun had to keep other employees out in an effort to prevent the spread. This left her to run the office alone.

“I can’t keep the office open 24 hours a day and man it with just me.”

Enter – the Blessing Box. The Blessing Box was started by Melanie Burger less than a week ago and has already taken a major weight off of Grun. Burger set the box in front of her clothing store, Forever Kate, on main street. She’s already restocked it seven times due to visitor traffic.

“Most of those have been women with children,” Burger said.

Burger keeps the Blessing Box stocked using her own paycheck, and gets help from her next-door-shop neighbor, Autumn, who runs Wings of Alexcia. Both shops dedicate their proceeds to charity, leaving only enough to pay the store’s rent. Neither of the women takes home a paycheck.

“We now have baby bottles, baby food, diapers. Those items are going than any of the other items that we have put in the box,” Burger said.

Burger stated that Hartselle is a small town filled with peoople who would never guess they’d have this need for themselves. Some, she says, feel ashamed. The Blessing Box allows for anonymity.

“They can come at night, they can come anytime in the day and take food and they don’t have to worry about being judged.”

Grun and Burger agree that those who have a way to give need to take advantage of that for as long as they can.

“[Homeless] are treated as though they’re less than everybody else. Most of these people are good people, they’ve just hit a really hard time in their life and they don’t choose to be there,” Grun said.

For those interested in donating, Grun says you can send a direct message through Feeding Families’ Facebook page.

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