The flood of May, 2010 was a historic event in Nashville. Never before had so many people in various communities around the city been affected by flood waters. The Mill Creek area in Antioch was hard hit. The 25” of rain that fell in a short amount of time caused creeks and rivers to overflow banks and inundate homes, schools, churches, and businesses.
As happens in most wide-spread disasters, people rallied to the aid of those who were in danger and who suffered the loss of their homes. In Southeast Nashville, churches and organizations came together in a great symphony of oneness and formed Southeast Nashville Recovery. Two of the volunteers who stepped forward were Melissa Thomas and Liz Minor. While one friend worked to manage home repairs, the other worked to provide food and water to those affected. In the summer of 2012, after completing work on 312 homes, the work of Southeast Nashville Recovery was finished.
Though the crisis was over and many people’s lives returned to normal, the group realized that there were unmet needs in the community. It was decided that the group would not dissolved, but would continue to work together to address the needs With input from Second Harvest Food Bank and members of the community, it was determined that a good food bank would greatly benefit the area, because, for some, the hunger didn’t fade as the flood waters receded. So, in April 2013, The Branch opened its doors to begin providing food for families in three ZIP codes.
In the beginning, The Branch operated solely as a food distribution center. By getting to know the guests who came to pick up food, it was discovered that our guests had many reasons for needing the support of the pantry. Not only were veterans and those on fixed incomes requesting help. Many of those who needed assistance were facing barriers related to language. Not knowing the language would always be isolating and would restrict earning potential for these guests. Without English, they would have no chance of rising out of poverty, so the ESL program was started.
Today, 400-500 families receive food from The Branch pantry each month. 250 students are enrolled in ESL classes which meet Monday through Thursday during the school year. Volunteers from local businesses, schools, and churches join with the small staff to grow The Branch community.