West suburban community pantry turns to curbside pickup amid COVID surge – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — Curbside pickup; its popularity has exploded during the pandemic, both for convenience and to keep everyone safe.

Morning Insider Tim McNicholas shows us how a suburban food pantry uses the sidewalk as a solution to make sure people don’t go hungry.

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They say kindness is contagious, but good deeds aren’t all that’s being spread these days.

Over the past few days, small food pantries in Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania and beyond have closed due to COVID cases.

Laura Coyle and the West Suburban Community Pantry don’t want to be next on that list.

“We really want to be able to stay open,” said Coyle, executive director of the pantry. “If we have an outbreak here, it could really shut down the service we provide for a few weeks.”

So they changed the game plan.

People usually walk into the pantry and grab what they need, just like a grocery store. Now the volunteers pack the food and bring it to people in their cars.

“It’s beyond wonderful to have a program like this,” said Latonia Okanta. “I have four foster children. It seems like they never have enough food sometimes, you know? »

Many volunteers are retired, over 65 and particularly vulnerable to COVID; so many of them quit.

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Coyle says the number of pantry volunteers has dropped more than 25% since the pandemic began. In other words, they can’t afford to lose anyone.

“It’s harder than ever, frankly, right now. I think people are tired. Finding volunteers was a real challenge,” Coyle said.

They are not alone. The Greater Chicago Food Depository said it averaged about 495 volunteers a week in November. Now, with the rise of Omicron, they’ve dropped to around 325 per week.

It’s a struggle Coyle knows all too well.

“Every week and every shift we strive to recruit the volunteers we need to keep things running,” she said.

This week, that scramble worked; so much so that the pantry was able to provide Okanta with not only groceries, but also gifts for her 11-year-old daughter’s birthday.

“It’s because of programs like this, my daughter, one of my adopted daughters, her birthday is today, I can take her out for ice cream,” Okanta said.

One act of kindness creating another. This is the right kind of community broadcast.

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If you would like to volunteer at the West Suburban Community Pantry, you can sign up on their website.

Norma P. Rex