COVID-19 has had a significant impact on families in the community, leaving many without jobs and some without loved ones.

It is a difficult time for some people to find things to be grateful for, and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Marion chapter decided to do something about it.

“We know that racial injustice and economic injustice go hand in hand,” said Torri Williams, the lead organizer of BLM Marion. “Our child poverty rate is the highest in the state ... and the kids that are living in poverty aren’t living alone.”

Williams said she had the goal of providing 10 families with a Thanksgiving meal, but before she knew it 21 families had reached out for help.

Williams took to social media, asking her Facebook friends to donate, and soon had enough donations to feed the 21 families. But the donations kept coming in. Williams reached out to local community leaders to find more families that needed assistance. In the end, 35 families received a laundry basket full of food, and two families received additional groceries.

“A Thanksgiving meal is not going to change the world, but that’s money people don’t have to use on food for that special day. They can spend it on bills, medicine, even toys for their kids at Christmas,” Williams said. “Aside from money, people need to know that other people care, especially right now.”

With the help of her daughter Makayla Williams and Chasity Saleh, Williams completed contactless deliveries to each family.

Saleh, who was born and raised in Marion before moving to Florida 10 years ago, said she was excited to see a BLM chapter form in Marion and reached out to Williams to help.

“When I’m in Florida I’ll still support her. This is my hometown and I still love my people and my community,” Saleh said. “I’d love to see Marion grow and prosper.”

Delivering the meals was a humbling experience and lifted her spirit during a depressing year, Saleh said.

“They were just thankful,” she said. “I’ve been on the receiving end of needing help at times as a single mother. People in Grant County have helped me out when I needed it.”

Living in a big city has helped Saleh understand more about what the Black Lives Matter organization is truly about, she said.

“A lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about (BLM),” Saleh said. “They don’t understand throughout history of a lot of civil rights groups really help more than just the Black community. They are really there to help the community entirely.”

Saleh said she delivered meals to families of all races and backgrounds.

“It’s a great outreach group that can benefit everyone, while educating people about the injustices that People of Color face,” Saleh said. “People need to open their eyes and see the good that’s being done in the chapters of Black Lives Matter groups.”

Saleh said she encourages people to reach out to Williams and BLM Marion to find out more about what the chapter does in the community.

“If we can uplift the Black community and uplift the larger community at the same time, that’s what we want to do,” Williams said.

BLM Marion will be partnering with Moving Marion Forward to host a Christmas food and toy drive. For more information, like Black Lives Matter Marion on Facebook.

“The need will always exceed what we can do, but as someone who received help when I was struggling, I know what it’s like to have that moment of relief,” Williams said. “I hate that there is a need, but as long as there is there will be people working to address it.”

While many people in the community donated, Saleh said Williams worked tirelessly to make sure the families got what they needed.

“(Williams) is a hidden gem in this community. I can’t speak highly enough of the work she does,” Saleh said. “Heroes always get taken advantage of and she truly is a hero.”

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