Ransom Pub provides service industry workers with meals amid employment uncertainty during COVID-19

Rachel Greenland, Reporter

A local pub is seeking to serve the service industry and ensure High Country residents receive wholesome meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ransom Pub adjusted its regular restaurant business to “fill the gaps that the High Country needed” through care boxes filled with enough fresh produce, grains and meat to make 40 meals. 

“For us, love is action, and so if you can look around and use what resources you have within an arm’s reach to go and help somebody else, especially during difficult times, that love brings hope,” said Todd Hendley, Ransom’s managing partner.

Feeding America reported 17.8% of Watauga County residents were food insecure in 2016, and the rate is predicted to rise with nearly 500,000 North Carolinians applying for unemployment since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the state in mid-March.

Hendley said he saw an opportunity to help by continuing to order from US Foods, a major food supplier and distributor, to fill these boxes. 

Hendley met with more than 50 local leaders — business owners, city officials and school resource workers — to make sure students were still getting the food they needed after the public schools moved to virtual classes. But, after ensuring the schools were taken care of, Hendley said it became clear to him and others that there was a gap for the rest of the county.

“After the meeting, there was a group of us that met, and the idea just kind of popped up during that meeting that we needed to form some sort of grocery box,” Hendley said. “We could distribute out of Ransom and just help service industry workers and families that didn’t have access to the schools.”

Courtesy of Ransom Pub
Ransom Pub Managing Partner Todd Hendley (third from left), brother Doc Hendley (second from left) and others help the pub package care boxes for the High Country’s service industry workers.

Ransom’s original goal was to create 100 boxes with 40 meals inside, but by the end of the first week, Hendley said the team had packaged 16,000 meals, filling 400 boxes for the community. He said a lot of the help spreading the message came from Shalamar Blevins.

Blevins is the marketing director at Vincent Properties and worked in the service industry for 15 years. She assembled a team of volunteers to create information packets, deliver the packets to restaurants and service industry areas, and work shifts packing the boxes.

“It’s very important to me, one, for people to stay healthy as long as they can and fight this as long as they can,” Blevins said. “Two, for everyone out there to know that people care.”

Other community members and organizations reached out to Hendley when they heard about the care boxes.

Wine To Water, an international nonprofit run out of the same building as Ransom by Hendley’s brother Doc, has helped package boxes and raise monetary donations through its website. Stick Boy Bread Company has committed to donating bread for the next few weeks. Conrad’s Coffee donated all of the coffee for this week’s care boxes.

Additionally, many local businesses, organizations and churches have donated to cover the funds needed to provide the care boxes for the community.

“It’s just been amazing to see how the High Country and Boone and Watauga County have come together and want to support their own,” Hendley said. “It just makes me so thankful to live in a town that cares so much about everybody here.”

Hendley said he wants to continue the care boxes after COVID-19 calms down, but he doesn’t know at what capacity yet. In order to sustain the boxes through the pandemic at least, he said they moved to 100 boxes last week and will increase it by 50 each week, ultimately packaging between 100 and 300 boxes a week.

Each box costs $40 to produce. People can help Ransom continue creating the care boxes for the High Country by donating at give.winetowater.org/carebox.