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Big Pop Up Event To Distribute Free Food, Supplies To Charlotte Families Impacted By COVID-19

North Carolina Community Action Association
The Big Pop Up will distribute free food and supplies to Charlotte families at the Park Expo and Conference Center on July 29.

A Charlotte-based nonprofit will host a mass distribution event for local families on July 29 in Charlotte.

The drive-thru event, sponsored by the North Carolina Community Action Association and hosted by the Charlotte Area Fund, will be held at the Park Expo and Conference Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will distribute household goods, personal items, food supplies, and other products for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Participants are required to remain in their vehicles for the duration of the event.

COVID-19 testing and vaccinations will be available on-site for participants and administered by the C.W. Williams Community Health Center.

The Big Pop Up began in January of this year to provide aid to marginalized communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Sharon Goodson, executive director of the North Carolina Community Action Association.

“We wanted to destigmatize the need for families to ask for help,” Goodson said.

To organize each Big Pop Up event, the North Carolina Community Action Association partners with its statewide network of community action agencies, which are nonprofit organizations that serve low-income residents. The first event was held in Raleigh, and subsequent events have expanded to other locations across the state.

Charlotte Area Fund CEO and president Nicholas Wharton said the pandemic has only worsened poverty and food access for many local families, particularly in Black and brown communities. Wharton has noticed a need for essential items such as cleaning products, diapers and fresh produce.

"That was the real core (of the event), to just provide some economic relief for families that quite frankly have not come out of this COVID pandemic and economic crisis," Wharton said.

Many low-income residents faced challenges prior to the pandemic. In 2014, a Harvard University study ranked Charlotte last in economic mobility among the 50 largest U.S. metro areas. A follow-up analysis conducted last year found children in Charlotte's low-income households are unlikely to escape poverty, and poor economic mobility disproportionately impacts people of color.

While the Big Pop Up won't eliminate poverty in the region, Wharton hopes the event will connect families in need with local organizations and resources.

“We just want to make sure that families that find their way here know that someone cares about what they're going through,” Wharton said. "We have a lot of other services to provide, as well as other partners that are participating."

The Big Pop Up in Charlotte will be the fourth distribution event this year. In total, the Big Pop Up has served more than 5,000 families across the state, Goodson said.

Goodson said the distribution events will likely continue after the pandemic, emphasizing the importance of uniting members of the community.

The next Big Pop Up event will be held in Goldsboro on Aug. 10, followed by an event in Waynesville in September.

Wharton currently serves as vice-chair of WFAE's Board of Directors.

Kamille Houston is a WFAE intern covering stories grounded in community outreach and engagement. She is currently studying English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she writes on race and equity for the student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian.