DARKE COUNTY — Those who have social media have seen a lot of one fellow throughout Greenville and parts of the county the past couple of months in an attempt to feed the people — young and old alike — during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That man is Eric Fee, owner of Tribute Funeral Homes.
“First of all… this totally isn’t me at all,” said Fee humbly. “This community has stepped up in unimaginable ways to take care of their own.”
He said this ‘mission’ started when the Nashville tornado hit.
“It started when we raised money and supplies for the Nashville tornado victims,” he said. “Adam Hollinger, Greg Miller and I took supplies, food, and tools down to distribute and work a few days cleaning up after the storms. By the time I arrived home, they determined school would be canceled for a couple weeks, and people were worried about the children who relied on free/reduced school lunches.”
He said it was then that he reached out to Josh Welker, outreach pastor at EUM Church in Greenville.
“He was glad to take this challenge on and partner together,” Fee said. “I decided to start making calls to local restaurants asking for help. My first call was to Chris Campbell at The Merchant House. He jumped in with both feet and was the only call for food I needed to make. He prepared great lunches that volunteers in the county assembled and passed out to families the week before the school districts began distributing lunches. We served several hundred children, all thanks to generous donations from several local businesses throughout the county.”
Fee said by the end of that week with plenty of people helping out, he was asked, ‘What about the seniors that are shut in and struggling?’
“Ian Savage, owner of Remedy Plumbing, Jeremy Bohn, owner of Bohndox Concessions, Loure Bohn, owner of Suds in a Bucket Cleaning and Matt Gowdown and his mother, Linda, were planning a trip to Nashville to feed and help with clean up. Nashville was not allowing people in because of the pandemic,” Fee recalled. “We all got together to see how we could partner to help Darke County instead. All of their donors wanted the supplies and funds staying in Darke County to help the seniors that are shut-in. We started out with a ton of great supplies to start the program. As we were setting up, I received a personal phone call from friends that are elderly and shut-in that had nothing to eat and were scared to leave their house. That would be our first delivery to a shut-in. We leave the supplies at the door to limit exposure. Approximately two weeks into the dry goods and supplies delivery, I received a call from Christena Sharp of Brookdale Senior Living sharing they wanted to donate 50 hot meals and asked if we could connect them to seniors that could benefit. We only delivered 35 meals that week.”
Once again, Fee met with Josh Welker.
“And Josh and his wife took the program, refined it, streamlined it, and made the program amazing,” Fee said. “We have served over 1,700 meals just in the month of April…serving over 130 hot meals a day to senior shut-ins!”
Aaron and Michelle Cox, owners of Montage, came on board two days a week. Chris and Cassie Campbell, owners of The Merchant House, joined one day a week, Dave McCartney, an owner of Dairy King, and Steve Fair of Kentucky Fried Chicken, also stepping in, all donating meals. Recently Sandy Baker and the staff of the Oakley House partnered with Darby Livingston, owner of Roots by Tree Hill Farms, to donate meals.
“We have had hundreds of local businesses sponsoring one, two, and even three full days of meals,” Fee reported. “Fish Choice Pantry and Grace Resurrection Community Center have also offered donations of food and supplies. This could not be possible without the local community stepping up and taking care of its own. I want to thank each and every one of them. They made this possible!”
He added, “We also partnered with Radiant Lighthouse and other local businesses to provide several Blessing Boxes throughout the county. This has also helped many in need throughout the county. Individuals and businesses alike continue to fill them on a regular basis. This community is amazing, generous, and kind. We will come out of this better on the other side.”