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Bedford County announces community aid plan

Bedford County announces community aid plan

Only $5 for 5 months

The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office announced a community aid plan on Monday to address Bedford County residents’ needs during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Recognizing the need to mobilize quickly to meet evolving needs in the community, various Bedford County departments, organizations and churches collaborated to establish a call center individuals in need of assistance due to the impact of coronavirus, such as effects of unemployment and social distancing, can contact and receive the help they require.

Food services, financial aid and medication prescription pick-ups and delivery are among some of the services currently available through the confidential call center.

Launched Monday and based out of the sheriff’s office, the services available will adapt with the situation to accommodate ever-developing needs identified in the community in the midst of the pandemic, said Mike Miller, Bedford County sheriff.

“We’re typically used to storms or other natural events. Our community members are trained and have the ability to shelter in place for three or four days, but this is not three or four days,” Bedford County Administrator Robert Hiss said. “As the sheriff’s office and the other officials within our community, we were really trying to think about, how are we going to meet the needs of our most vulnerable members going forward in our community, as medicines start to deplete, and paychecks start to disappear and other things start to emerge?”

The special call center will also free up the 911 call center line so each community need can be met more efficiently by appropriate responders. Miller said the 911 call center was seeing a small spike in questions from citizens related to the pandemic, and helping to establish this separate call center was a “proactive move” to be sure a resource was in place before the 911 call center was utterly overwhelmed.

“This is a very dynamic and fluid kind of situation,” said Denny Huff, executive director of Bedford Community Health Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to identify and address community health needs, and serve as a community health information resource. “We’re still identifying the needs.”

Huff said he anticipates food will be one of the greatest needs in the Bedford community.

Miller said prescription pick-up and delivery will be handled by law enforcement officers, as he wants to keep citizens’ medical needs as private as possible. He added local grocery stores and pharmacies are working with the community aid initiative to help make sure such food and prescription needs can be met.

“This initiative is nothing new, so the phones we had, the computers we had and the employees are already employees of Bedford County,” Miller said, addressing whether the community aid initiative would cost the county extra money. “Other than redirection of their daily duties, it’s costing Bedford County nothing extra.”

Robin Braxton and Anita Dengle, two call center operators coming from Bedford County’s Department of Tourism and Welcome Center, received several calls for aid within the first hours of operation.

“I think it’s a wonderful joint effort between the sheriff’s department and the county department of social services and area churches. It’s a great way for people to unite,” Dengle said. “I’m proud to be part of the team.”

“Make sure you call if you have a need. It’s very important to us,” said Todd Foreman, chief of police for the town of Bedford Police Department. “I hear a lot of times people say that they don’t want to bother the police, because they are busy. We are busy now, but we’ve set this up to handle that so that we can take care of the citizens and have their needs met. We don’t need anybody to suffer at home.”

Miller echoed Foreman’s message, encouraging Bedford county residents to take advantage of the call center.

“Don’t think you’re a burden,” he said. “This is relieving our 911 center. If you have a true emergency, call 911, but if it’s a question you have, don’t feel like you can’t call, because now we have people here who are willing and able to help you.”

Local public safety officials, as well as Mickey Johnson, district one supervisor for Bedford County, implored community members to adhere to social distancing, and monitor and comply with CDC guidelines, as well as watch for county notices and updates through the county website regarding the pandemic.

Call center hours are currently weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Any Bedford County residents in need of assistance are encouraged to call (540) 587-0720, or email COVID19-BedfordHelp@bedfordcounty.va.gov.

Shannon Kelly covers Bedford County. Reach her at (434) 385-5489.

Shannon Kelly covers Bedford County. Reach her at (434) 385-5489.

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