Hometown Heroes | Bill and Fran Fortune, Nitro Mission Team
NITRO, W.Va. (WSAZ) - All year round, the Nitro Mission Team is working to ensure those who are less fortunate have food on the table.
“There’s still a hunger problem, we have a lot of unemployment in our community, we have people who need it and that’s why we’re here,” said Director of the Nitro Mission Team, Bill Fortune. “That’s our number one goal is to feed the hungry.”
Every Tuesday throughout the year the Nitro Mission Team puts on a community food giveaway at the Nitro Food Pantry. Fortune and his wife, Fran have been serving the public with the Mission Team since 2007.
City officials say in 2020, the Mission Team served 2,911 households including, 1,299 seniors, 3,552 adults and 1,731 children.
“(The) Nitro Mission Team performs an essential role in this community, they work 40 to 50 hours a week to make sure the under-privileged are adequately fed in Nitro and that’s a very important service in every community,” said Mayor Dave Casebolt.
The Nitro Mission Team recently got a new facility, which Fortune says allows them to store double the food they were before. Fortune said when he and his wife first started helping the community, they only had about five or six bags of groceries and $100 in the bank. Now, they’re giving away groceries to families worth anywhere from $100 to $125.
“We’ve got turkeys, hams, shrimp, chicken, pizzas,” Fortune told WSAZ. “Just anything you go to the grocery store we’ve usually got something like that. All kinds of canned goods, all kinds of produce.”
Fortune said the Nitro Mission Team is made up of volunteers from 14 churches in the city of Nitro.
“It’s a very large effort, on a Tuesday, (they have about) 20 to 25 volunteers that show up to keep these cars moving,” said Casebolt. “They’ll feed 40 to 50 families a week so it’s a very important service.”
“We want it to be a positive experience for us and for (the people who come to get food),” said Fortune. “I tell all our volunteers here, what you see, may be the shining point of their day. We’re a Christian faith-based organization and we need to remember that too.”
Fortune says the numbers vary but on average they help about 130 families every month. However, their work doesn’t just stop at the food pantry.
“Not only do they provide this service to the community, they (also) put on events,” Casebolt told WSAZ, “they do the Taste of Nitro (event, where) all the churches come together and cook food. They feed the whole community at Thanksgiving time, you’ll have 400 to 500 people show up.”
City officials say along with their weekly food handout, they also have a Back Pack program which they provide 120 students that attend Nitro and Rock Branch Elementary Schools a bag of free food every weekend. Around Christmas time, the team provides about 300 families with Christmas dinner and gifts for children.
“These people here show the true heart of Nitro, this is what Nitro is all about, about giving back to the community and nobody does it better than the Nitro Mission Team,” Casebolt said.
The City of Nitro presented the WSAZ Hometown Hero award to the Fortune and his wife and to their food pantry saying they do “an essential public service” in the city.
“We have a beautiful relationship here in our town with volunteers within the city,” said Fortune after receiving the award. “It’s just hard to believe, I can’t say how much we appreciate it. We appreciate this, this is great. I wish my wife could’ve been up here, she couldn’t be here today.”
The Nitro Mission Team is funded through several local donations including places like the Mountaineer Food Bank, Facing Hunger Food bank, Sam’s Club and the dedication of the mission team members.
Food giveaway at the Nitro Food Pantry is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Tuesday in a drive-thru fashion due to COVID-19. Fortune says they are touch-free with clients.
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