Caring Community Friends is determined to help despite the limitations

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Creek County is seeing its third tumultuous spring in as many years, which has kept its largest food bank and emergency assistance agency, Caring Community Friends, busy and in high demand. CCF’s Executive Director, Dr. Camille Teale, says that the organization “has been on the frontlines of serving the community and meeting needs for three straight years during a variety of emergencies.”

In April of 2018, the state-wide school walk-out occurred and in late May of 2019 there were natural disasters throughout the state, which decimated thousands of trees and power lines and kept most residents and businesses without power for weeks, and in some cases, months.

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“Most of the Sapulpa community lost everything out of their refrigerators and freezers,” said Dr. Teale.

The emergency du jour, the global COVID-19 pandemic, which is keeping people inside and many unable to work, has created new and unique challenges for CCF and its coffers. Currently, the agency is solely dedicated to disaster relief. This was difficult at the beginning of the crisis, in that there was a spike in demand from new clients to the food pantry, but an 84 percent decrease in food donations from stores. Additionally, the organization is following CDC guidelines and is working with essential personnel only, so they have had to reduce volunteers from 20-30 people to just 2-3. These dedicated people are “helping to prepare and distribute hundreds of disaster relief food boxes and answer a high volume of calls,” according to Teale.

Mayor Lou Martin, Micah Barker (Holmes Park Elementary counselor), and Paul Zaloudik unloading food at CCF for disaster relief boxes

She added that two “striking differences” between this emergency and those in the past are that “we don’t know when this emergency will end and we are also one of the few ‘essential’ service organizations actively engaging with clients” so the demand is not likely to decrease anytime soon.

They have had to “implement several safety measures, including closing the Shopper’s Choice Pantry and instead, offering drive-up food service.”

“An emergency is whatever causes a substantial hardship for the individuals and families in our community.”

Dr. Camille Teale, Executive Director of Caring Community Friends

They are also preparing for long-term recovery following the current threat. They have already “expanded service hours and the financial services they offer to help those who have lost jobs or have had increased medical expenses because of the pandemic.”

Typically, CCF provides free emergency assistance through food, utilities, and life-sustaining medications to Creek County residents living in Sapulpa, Kellyville, Kiefer, Oakhurst, and Mounds.

Teale says the agency “works to reduce the impact of poverty, provide basic needs, and quite simply, to help individuals live to see another day.”

CCF has eight successful programs in addition to their assistance with utilities and medication.

Bill Johnston and Paul Zaloudik unloading food donations at CCF

These programs include the Shopper’s Choice Food Pantry (a large selection of fresh produce, meat, dairy, bakery items, and pantry staples), a Fresh Market (fresh foods that are available weekly), the Community and Teaching Garden, the Senior Citizens’ Food Program (a monthly program offered to low-income individuals over the age of 60), the Food4Kids Backpack Program (which provides food for all Sapulpa Public Schools–over 13,000 bags of food annually), the Book and Snack Mobile (a summer feeding site which provides children with high-quality, kid-friendly meals without the need for refrigeration or food preparation), school supplies and backpacks, and Christmas Stars (an assistance program for families struggling to provide a holiday for their children).

CCF receives no local government, state, or federal funding. All of their support comes from donations and grants from organizations such as the United Way, the Bartlett Foundation, local churches, local businesses, and private contributions. And because they are a Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma (CFBEO) partner, they are also able to receive “retail relief” in the form of food donations from local grocery stores and restaurants. These include Reasor’s, a couple of Walmarts, a couple of Kum & Go stores, Warehouse Market, Little Caesar’s, and Daylight Donuts.

CCF has increased services and food partnerships substantially in the last 2-3 years. They gave out over $700,000 in food donations in 2019 and are on track to give more in 2020.

They are currently offering free drive-through groceries by appointment on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They have a free fresh food drive-through distribution on Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., with no appointment needed.

To receive food, one must live in the CCF service area and must bring photo identification and proof of residence with them.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, loss of employment, or health problems due to COVID-19 please call 918-224-6464. They may be able to help.

To donate, please visit the website, ccfok.org, and click the yellow “Donate” button. You may also send checks to P.O. Box 1524; Sapulpa, OK 74067. CCF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible.