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January 19th, 2021

united healthcare covid kitfood drive posterROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so too does the needs of some looking to find some of life’s basic necessities.

Throughout coronavirus’ course, many organizations and agencies have helped fulfill those needs with boxes of food and other items.

Along with some local agencies and radio station La Mexicana, United Healthcare is providing such assistance for some in the area for some in the area for one day in each of 2021’s first three months.

United Healthcare’s Geovannie Gone said in December 2020, officials with the company came to her with some funding to help communities in Kansas.

“We went ahead and gathered some data and decided to distribute in two locations – Wyandotte County and Seward County,” she said.

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After those two counties were chosen, Gone said United Healthcare started partnering with some key community organizations and clinics to help put the process together, including Genesis Family Health, Southwest Medical Center, the Liberal Area Coalition for Families and Seward County United Way.

With Seward County and Wyandotte County on opposite ends of the state, as well as having significantly different populations, Gone said she was surprised when she learned a county from rural Kansas had been chosen.

“I think they picked this area because it is an area where COVID cases have been rising,” she said. “They also realize because of the agriculture, a lot of these families are in need. It’s definitely a community that needs extra support during these hard times right now. Even though we have been part of projects that are big, this one has surpassed any other project I’ve worked for.”

The first distribution was scheduled for Wednesday, with the next two taking place Feb. 10 and March 10 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Liberal’s First Baptist Church.

“We wanted to make sure it was in the middle of the week and it was a time families who work in the morning can still go and get the boxes and families who work at night can go early enough to pick them up,” she said.

Gone said plans are to distribute as much as  3,000 food boxes and 5,000 COVID safety kits at the three events.

“Any families who live in Liberal and even surrounding towns can come and get a food box and a COVID kit,” she said.

Gone said funding for the distribution comes from United Healthcare, and support comes from the Kansas Food Bank in Wichita. She stressed the importance of doing the distribution during the pandemic.

“It is a service we are providing to the community regardless of their income, regardless of their culture, regardless of their immigration status, regardless of where they work,” she said. “This is all for the community. Everyone is invited to come. I also think this is very important because it shows we are concerned. As an organization, we are concerned with families in rural Kansas, and we understand sometimes, resources are not as available as maybe an urban place.”

Gone said with a diverse community in place in Seward County, this makes the distribution even more important.

“We have a lot of families who are refugees, who are immigrants,” she said. “Minorities make a large part of the population, and we know COVID has been affecting our minority population a little bit more. I think just giving the help they need is so important.”

Gone praised the work of United Healthcare’s partners in making the distribution possible.

“All of the agencies have been amazing,” she said. “I think that’s one of the biggest strengths we have in Western Kansas. All the agencies have come together. Genesis’ clinic has been key to this project. I would almost call them a right hand. They’ve been helping us organize this. The Liberal coalition has been amazing as well, as have Seward County United Way. All the organizations and all the community partners we have in Liberal have been amazing, absolutely key in making this a reality.”

Depending on the success of the distribution, Gone said other similar projects could take place in the future.

“There has been some talking about some other projects a little bit different than this one, but there’s definitely some other projects we might be able to do in Liberal and the surrounding area,” she said.

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