By KATHLEEN SHAW
Daily News-Record 6/29/20
At the peak of pandemic news infiltrating day-to-day life, marked by toilet paper’s elevated status to a precious commodity and a sudden national craze for Netflix docu-series “Tiger King,” life was, in short, weird. Rather than fold its cards and hunker down to conspire if Carole Baskin killed her husband, the Pale Fire Brewing team dedicated its closed-down taproom into a food bank for service employees on reduced and cut hours.
By mid-March, Pale Fire Helps was a fully running operation in partnership with Sysco, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Digital Minerva to provide food and supplies to restaurant workers in the surrounding area during the COVID-19 crisis. At its peak, over 100 people filed into the pop-up pantry each day to collect fresh produce, shelf-stable snacks and ready-to-eat meals.
Three weeks ago, Pale Fire Brewing converted its taproom back into a full bar and lounge area and shut down its Pale Fire Helps operation to prepare for reopening as service industry workers began resuming employment and relying less on the pop-up food bank.
“It had dropped down to a trickle of five [visitors] a day, and I take that as a great sign. It was here when people needed the help, and we certainly got food out to people. And when it wasn’t needed anymore, it wrapped itself up naturally,” owner Tim Brady said.
Excess food was donated to the Patchwork Pantry, and additional funds raised through the community were donated to People Helping People, a crisis agency assessing individual needs, obtaining financial assistance and providing basic needs through community networking. Brady brought the organization a check for $19,311 on Thursday because he said the organization was built on the same spirit of giving as Pale Fire Helps.
“I have great faith in People Helping People using the money to help people,” Brady said. “They return 92 cents on every dollar. … They are a very positive force in our community.”
Each year, People Helping People helps over 2,000 families in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, according to its website.
“Pale Fire Helps was something we organized, but the real engine behind it was people’s generosity whether that was Sysco donating food or Digital Minerva doing web design,” Brady said. “It really was the community coming together to help some people who had lost their jobs unexpectedly.”