NCCU, church leaders provide free food and COVID-19 testing

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A line of cars with dozens of people inside lined up before 10 a.m. on Saturday, on the stretch of Belvin Avenue that leads to the Greater Walltown United Holy Church in Durham. That's where they received free food, including turkeys, and COVID-19 testing.

"It does our heart good to see that," said the Reverend Timothy Moore, pastor of the church. "Because that's what church is supposed to be about anyway. Ministry goes beyond the walls and we have to do our part to help out the community."

Those inside the cars that filled the church parking lot responded to the church's partnership with North Carolina Central University. It is one in a series of clinics designed to engage underserved communities of color in nine North Carolina counties where testing and other health care services are not easily available.

"Many residents of Durham have not had adequate access to life-saving medical and health care resources," said Dr. Undi Hoffler, coordinator of the site and head of Research Compliance and Technology Transfer for the university. "Since Durham is also home to our campus, NCCU is committed to bridging that gap and making sure our neighbors' needs are not overlooked during the pandemic."

NCCU was one of six institutions awarded funds from a $6 million grant from the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in July 2020 for COVID-19 research and care. NCCU's share of the funding, $1 million, was used to create the multidisciplinary research and outreach effort, ACCORD.

Those who responded the Durham COVID-19 testing event were asked about their thoughts and opinions surrounding the virus and the option of taking a vaccine once it becomes available, said Deepak Kumar, director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute who spearheads the ACCORD effort.

"When vaccines become available, we want to give people all the information they should know about the safety of the vaccine and everything they need to know so that communities can make informed decisions," Kumar said.

The results early Saturday indicate some skepticism from a community that's not entirely convinced the process is safe.

"About 30% of people will take the vaccine," said Dr. Seronda Robinson, head of the NCCU Department of Public Health Education. " And people need to hear from related, relevant resources about the importance of taking the vaccine. It's very important for us to fight this infection and to take precautionary measures. Taking the vaccine, staying six feet back, social distancing, washing our hands and wearing our masks properly. Especially during these holidays. We don't want to be a host. We don't want to host social events and we don't want to host the virus."

If you missed this opportunity but you're still experiencing food insecurity or you need a COVID-19 test, your options include the health department in your county.

"It's very important for people to know their status so that they can protect themselves and their families. They need to know what steps are necessary, whether they need to quarantine or wear their mask, even in their homes when they're around their family," said Dr. Robinson. "I know that we're all experiencing COVID fatigue. We're tired of looking at four walls, and not being able to see our friends and families. But for the safety of our friends and family's lives, it's important for us to physically distance."

Reverend Moore said, regarding food assistance, "We may end up opening up some more dates, so that we can help those in the community. But we will certainly advertise that by way of Channel 11."

Watch for updates as we get more information, on abc11.com and on the air.
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