I learned at a board meeting that some of Second Harvest’s feeding partners, the food pantries that serve our communities in need, were having to close due to the lack of volunteers, mostly seniors, amidst the Coronavirus crisis. I thought, “How can I help them still provide the food to the communities that are most vulnerable?”
Later that day I was given a volunteer wish list from a partner agency serving out of the Metro West Church of the Nazarene. I immediately called.
If there are angels on Earth, then Candice Campbell, Herald of Hope Food Pantry Coordinator is one. Seven years ago, after watching a video in church about children needing food on the weekends when out of school, Candice knew she had a calling to help. She’s been volunteering her time to the pantry ever since, while working a full time job, creating effective ways to reach more people.
The pantry regularly serves over 200 families on a weekly basis, but with more people losing their jobs in this crisis, she knew that number would grow. Candice has the strong support of fellow team members, like Solange St. Louis, who work tirelessly every week. However, with the growing need and losing senior volunteers, Candice knew they couldn’t do it alone and reached out to ask for more help.
Candice expressed her vision to have a drive-thru pantry to provide food, while also providing safety to the volunteers. I took a trip out to the church to meet her in person and see the layout. We brainstormed on many ideas from posting signage to keep clients in their vehicles, to utilizing areas in the church for staging the volunteers to sort and pre-bag food while keeping social distancing in mind. We came up with a plan and charged forward to make it work.
I have to admit that I left our meeting a little skeptical, especially since this was something she nor I had ever done before. But the faith that Candice had was infectious, and I committed to do all that I could. An invaluable lesson I learned is so many people are willing to help, you just need to ask.
It was a true team effort. My father-in-law helped provide a systematic and logistical approach to the potential crowds that would come. My fellow board member posted information on social media to ask for volunteers. My daughter made drive-thru pantry signage. Second Harvest staff connected us with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to have someone on site during the drive-thru. The store manager at Lowe’s in Fern Park donated traffic cones and caution signs after I asked if I could possibly have a discount on my purchase. Friends and board members also volunteered to help. It was amazing to feel the union of people coming together.
Clients lined up as early as 6:00 a.m. to get their food (pick up starts at 9:30 a.m.). Volunteers were stationed throughout the line to keep cars moving and to keep clients inside their vehicles. Food bags were placed into the client’s trunks to keep volunteers safe. Candice’s intuition was right about the increasing need; over 325 families were served that day! She knows that number will continue to grow as days go by and more families are losing their jobs and having to choose between paying rent or buying food.
Candice was moved by the support of all of the volunteers that came out dedicating their time. “I appreciate all that Second Harvest does for us, not just this past weekend, but over the many years. Thank you, so much!”
I want to thank you, Candice Campbell, for being an inspiration and much needed light in these trying times.
~Mary Beth Morgan
SHFB Board of Director, Volunteer
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