The Coronavirus Pandemic and the accompanying shut-down has had a devastating effect on the lives of individuals and families, students and teachers, employees and business-owners. No one has been untouched by this historic, global event. Remarkably, the food pantry is weathering the storm, thanks to many, many people. We have been the recipient of food donations, mask donations, and monetary donations. We have also been on receiving end of many fervent prayers. Prayers for strength, for fortitude, for safety.
The majority of volunteers that have kept the pantry running for so many years is made up of retirees. Because retirees are part of the vulnerable population (one of a handful of new phrases that have become part of our every day language, like social distancing, distance learning, and zoom meeting), many have understandably had to step back during this time. Fortunately, several people-students whose in-person classes and other activities have been cancelled, adults working from home, and friends and relatives of long-time volunteers-have stepped in to help fill out the volunteer roster. And the volunteer roster continues to grow. Just 3 short months ago, the pantry staffed 7-9 volunteers at a time during operating hours; today, each shift sees 25-28 volunteers. The operation used to be held exclusively indoors, where our fearless leaders (never more so than these past few months!) Bernie and Joyce had all volunteers within eye shot or ear shot; now 18 of our volunteers are outside, spread out across the church grounds, while 8 or 9 work inside. And the numbers of clients we are seeing has increased tremendously. The average number of clients served per weekend has jumped from 170 or so to over 400, and the average number of first-time clients per weekend has drastically increased from 20 or so to 140.
Many volunteers keep the ever-growing operation running...out on the front lines-registering clients and handing out food, down in the basement-filling bins and bags, and all that goes on behind the scenes-you know who you are: fielding phone calls and emails, managing relationships with partner organization, attending Zoom meetings, managing food inventory and placing bulk food orders, keeping the pantry stocked with all of the necessary forms, new client ID cards, and office supplies, querying the database for stats and charts, and the list goes on. We are an all-volunteer operation, and we are thankful for each and every one of them, but there is a core group of individuals that continues showing up to serve in the pantry week after week, many twice or even three times a week, month after month, for more shifts than can be counted. They should be recognized for their tireless, selfless efforts.
Coronavirus Edition -June 2020
The Power of Prayer
In April, a local woman, feeling the burden of the shutdown on the many working poor, reached out to people she knew to find out if there was a way she could help. She was particularly worried about immigrant families without enough to eat. One of the people she talked to pointed her towards St Camillus.
Around the same time, a local family with a little girl with health problems was worried about running out of food. Among her challenges, she suffers from celiac disease and must maintain a gluten-free diet. Neither of her parents was working, and their supply of gluten-free food was running low.
On a Thursday evening, the little girl's mother, prompted by a friend, reached out to the
St Camillus parish office. Knowing our pantry doesn't generally carry gluten-free foods, Sandra,
who answered the call, encouraged the woman to at least come to get food from the pantry for her husband and herself. She got the woman's contact information and hung up the phone with a heavy heart, sorry that she couldn't do anything to help their little girl, whose medical needs, which also include Type I diabetes, dictate the restrictive and expensive diet. Sandra went to bed that night praying that we'd find some way to help the little girl.
On Friday morning, Sandra prepared to call Bernie, one of our pantry supervisors, to ask him to keep an eye out for any gluten-free food that might show up in donations and to please hold it for the little girl. But before she could get that far, the local woman at the beginning of the story, who had been trying for some time to connect with someone at the church, picked up the phone and dialed Sandra's personal phone number.
In the moments that followed, Sandra's fervent prayers were answered. The local woman desperately wanted to help people in need, but when she heard the little girl's story, she wanted even more to help this innocent child. As it turns out, the woman also suffers from celiac disease and felt an instant connection to the little girl, knowing and understanding her struggles. That day she loaded up her truck with food donations and 100 homemade sandwiches for our pantry clients and filled 3 grocery bags with gluten-free food for the little girl. She delivered it to the pantry first thing Saturday morning and offered to support the little girl's dietary needs throughout the summer!
It is a wonderful example of how God hears our prayers and answers them in His own perfect timing.
Continuing to Serve
-There were 5 weekends in May 2020.
-The numbers for 2019 also include those clients served
in Langley Park before we closed our second location.
With the tremendous numbers of clients we are seeing at the pantry each week, it is taking an equally tremendous amount of money to keep enough food on the shelves. The pantry is spending an average of $4000 per week in bulk food purchase in order to keep up.
We are extremely thankful for ongoing financial support from St Elizabeth and St John the Baptist, the Community Foundation of Greater Washington for their support-a total of $15,000 in grants, Montgomery County emergency funding dedicated to the purchase of food for organizations feeding the hungry, and our many individual donors who are sending checks and donating online through our GoFundMe page.
We are also very grateful for the 350 twenty-pound boxes of produce we receive weekly through the federal government's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the face masks and hand sanitizer received from Montgomery County when both were very hard to come by, and the availability of food to purchase from the Capital Area Food Bank and Saval Foodservice during the challenges in the food supply chain.