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Boone County grocery store offers free meals for kids, free delivery for the elderly

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Posted at 6:31 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 16:35:50-04

Update March 30: The Petersburg Pantry has closed temporarily after an employee came in "indirect contact" with a person who tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement Monday from store manager Kelly Widlowski.

"We are unable to continue the student lunches at this time, but our wonderful schools are delivering breakfast and lunch. We look forward to starting back up as soon as we reopen," Widlowski said Monday. Read her full statement here.

INITIAL REPORT

Petersburg, Kentucky, has only one restaurant: The Petersburg Pantry. It’s also got just one grocery store: The Petersburg Pantry.

The little red-brick building on State Road 20 serves most of the 620 people who live in town. As life across Kentucky shrinks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, stores closing and families quarantining themselves inside their homes, the Pantry has become a critical lifeline for many of them.

“Petersburg is a cute little tight-knit community,” manager Kelly Widlowski said Friday afternoon. “We are a group of people that are always helping each other out, especially in difficult times, helping each other get through it.”

Like every still-open restaurant in the state, the Pantry is carry-out only now. Widlowski reminds her customers to stand six feet apart and cleans frequently.

Community donations have allowed her to begin offering free, hot carry-out lunches every weekday for children who would otherwise have eaten at school.

“I think it’s really respectful,” elementary school student Jaelynn Joslin said. “Because there’s adults that don’t have enough food for their kids.”

Widlowski also made a standing offer to deliver groceries to older customers who don’t feel comfortable coming into the store in person. She knows everyone who shops there, she said.

“It is definitely a different situation,” she added. “I think our community has pulled together in a major way and they’re all helping each other get through this.”

For Steve McGuire, a Pantry customer who’s lived in Petersburg all his life, the pandemic has highlighted the community spirit he’s loved for 50 years.

“Everybody’s closer, checking on each other,” he said. “You check on the elderly. If you don’t see them out, you ask about them and knock on their door to see if they’re OK.”