RARA Gives a Helping Hand


Ella Vaught, Reporter

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families across the country and in Rockbridge County have faced many hardships, from the loss of a loved one to financial troubles. Because of the hard-hitting impacts of the pandemic, the Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA) has decided to help the community in more ways than just being a food pantry.

RARA believes that everyone deserves tasty, nutritious food and a warm, safe shelter, so they have begun to address the need in Rockbridge County with a HelpLine and Food Pantry. The HelpLine is intended to serve community members who need financial assistance, and the Food Pantry serves members of the community who experience food insecurity; however, RARA does not require proof of need to access the food pantry. 

RARA’s Project Manager Lindsey Pérez says that in response to the pandemic, RARA has transitioned their food pantry to accommodate a drive-thru option as well as a delivery option. They also created a pick-up form for families who needed to pick up food outside of distribution hours. The HelpLine has continued to support households who risk evictions or utility cut-offs despite the statewide moratorium on them. Additionally, RARA has been able to increase the amount of hotel vouchers they are able to provide because of the closures and waitlists of regional homeless shelters. 

When asked about the general need in Rockbridge County, Pérez says RARA serves about 600 families per month and received a total of 8,869 visits during 2020. She also says that RARA distributed 354 tons of food last year. Additionally, the HelpLine provided emergency assistance on 735 cases, which totaled over $236,000 worth of assistance. 

In addition to the Food Pantry and the HelpLine, RARA has a Senior Food Box program that targets the growing problem of senior hunger. RARA also runs a Color Me Healthy summer produce market as a way to distribute fresh produce to the local school districts’ summer meal program. In addition to providing fresh produce, RARA provides tasty and nutritious food through featured recipes and tastings. 

The Food Pantry is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. as well as Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.. There is no need to register ahead of time or bring any documentation of need to receive food. RARA also partners with Campus Kitchen at W&L to distribute food throughout the county at five Mobile Food Pantries per month. The HelpLine provides temporary financial assistance to families who need help with rent, utilities, heating fuel, or gasoline. They also will occasionally provide emergency shelter to families who are currently experiencing homelessness or who are transient. The HelpLine takes applications Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and are only accepted by phone at (540-463-6642).