When disaster strikes anywhere in the United States, the Feeding America network of food banks rallies together to provide support to the affected areas. That can look like very tangible things, like gathering donations from community food drives and coordinating with food industry partners for critical needs. Support can also come in the form of financial donations, volunteer hours, or in the case of one Second Harvest Food Bank employee, sharing employees.
Last week Josmy Nereus, our inventory control manager traveled to the Panhandle, somewhere he had never been before, to help out our Feeding Florida partners at Second Harvest of the Big Bend.
“I just love helping people,” said Josmy, thinking back on the week-long trip.
Unsure of what he’d find when he arrived in Tallahassee, Josmy knew his experience working disaster relief after Hurricane Irma in 2017 would be beneficial. In his 11 years at the food bank, Josmy has operated forklifts, managed shipping and receiving in the warehouse and kept accurate inventory records – all skills he was ready to put to good use in the Panhandle.
“It was definitely an adjustment to walk into a new warehouse,” Josmy admitted. He spent a few hours learning about their operation, equipment and layout and quickly got to work organizing deliveries, stocking inventory and pulling orders for feeding partners. Josmy learned that the team in the Big Bend had been working non-stop since Hurricane Michael made landfall. His arrival meant they could each take a much-needed day off over the course of the week.
After a few days in the warehouse, he went along on a mobile food drop to help deliver and unload a truck full of food in a rural community about 20 miles away. “As we drove out from the city, all I could see was fallen trees and power lines and pole after pole after pole just knocked over,” he recalled.
When he and his partner arrived at The Church of Jesus Christ Holy Mission in Quincy, the crowd of mostly senior citizens was thankful for their help. The delivery included snacks and water, but also baby food, something not many of those assembled could use. The volunteers set up a phone tree to call their friends and neighbors to make sure the food found its way to families with young children. Within two hours, the truck was empty.
“What I love about this work is I’m able to make a difference in somebody’s life every day. When I was growing up in Haiti, somebody helped my mom afford clothes, food and school. Now I get to pay it forward.”
Back in Orlando this week, Josmy is focused on the daily disaster of hunger here in Central Florida as the holiday season quickly approaches.
You can help support our neighbors in need this fall.