Food Outreach had an extraordinary year of growth during the pandemic. We are leaning into the power of “yes” and building and inspiring the capacity as an organization to help more clients, change the way we engage and channel our best selves to serve.
As a result of hiring a full-time and part-time van driver, we have increased our number of home deliveries by hundreds to ensure we are getting our one-month nutrition boxes to our clients who need to limit their time away from home. We welcomed a new client service coordinator who builds efficiencies in our delivery routes and schedules and who makes assessment calls to clients to understand their needs. The “yes” in our van drivers shows up in their willingness to make deliveries in any weather conditions and walk up 10 flights of stairs carrying 75-pound boxes when elevators are broken.
Depending on the work of over 700 volunteers is the cornerstone of our service. Even though we had to drastically reduce the number of volunteers in the building due to the pandemic, they jumped in with an eagerness to do anything to get our nutritious food to our clients. This includes smiles behind masks, responsible distancing, a willingness to pack and carry our boxes out to curbside, work in our walk-in freezer and stand outside to greet our clients in brutal heat, freezing cold and pouring rain. Our volunteers set an amazing example every day, inspire pride in our unique services and joy in the work itself.
Every Saturday, our lead volunteers, the Red Aprons, manage and oversee the packing, labelling and freezing of thousands of meals. We welcomed new but smaller teams of volunteers in the building each Saturday afternoon to pack personal care boxes containing cleaning supplies, personal hygiene and PPE items for our clients. One family of volunteers spent weeks making masks for the staff and volunteers to keep us safe in the early days. These people do more than show up – they lean in and get the work done because of their personal devotion to our clients and mission. We have connected with many volunteers who cannot be here right now and the love and care that they send to us spills over into our daily work.
Food Outreach received a historic amount of funding this year through the gifts of individuals, corporations, foundations and government grants. These donations and grants affirm the significance of our nutritional services in addressing enormous issues of inequity and instability in the lives of many in the St. Louis region and western IL. If you lose hope for a moment, I can testify to the compassion of many from across the US and the power of yes in philanthropy. We are committed to serving more clients in 2021 and this financial support will help us reach this goal.
During year one of the pandemic, I started calling Food Outreach “the Love Bubble.” Every day, I witness acts of kindness, care and selflessness and hear sincere expressions of thanks from our clients. Unlike many organizations who have moved to virtual work, our work continues in this small and extraordinary place, with our team of volunteers and staff, ensuring that the needs of our clients are met with respect, compassion and dignity. As we have worked through our anxiety and fears about any number of things that happened in 2020, we each harnessed our light and love and said yes to ensure Food Outreach stayed open for nearly 1,600 community members we served this year.
With much appreciation,