- March 23, 2021
It was a year ago today when I asked staff to help pack 2,000 boxes of shelf-stable food, late into Friday evening, and dedicate their Saturday, along with more than 100 volunteers, to delivering two weeks’ worth of emergency food to our clients throughout the region.
Like you, we didn’t know what was going to happen, but we had heard the city may shut down because of COVID-19. If that happened—and it did three days later—I wanted to make sure that our clients living with a serious or chronic illness would not be without food and could stay safe in their homes.
So, we urgently packed and delivered the emergency food boxes and then did a complete overhaul to our meal and delivery operations to ensure no-contact deliveries, proper social distancing and other COVID safety protocols were in place throughout the Food & Friends facility for staff and volunteers.
Through all the uncertainty over the last twelve months, what gave me inspiration and perseverance every day was the responsibility of taking care of our clients’ nutritional needs and well-being.
What gave me hope and motivation was you—our community of volunteers, donors and staff—and your dedication to providing meals and support to our neighbors struggling with an illness, along with their caregivers and dependents.
In what has been the most isolating year of our lives, I am so proud that Food & Friends never stopped being a place where people come together to make a difference for each other. This is a reality that is both humbling and rewarding, and is only possible because of you.
You really showed your strength and commitment. You never gave up on us or our sick neighbors who depended on our mission more than ever. You helped us prepare and deliver 1.2 million nutritionally tailored meals to meet the increased demand last year — 100,000 more meals than we had originally planned.
And, because your support never ceased, Food & Friends doors did not close for a single day during the pandemic. You allowed us to be there for our clients—six days a week—when it was even more important for people with a serious illness to receive food at home. I can’t thank you enough!
One of the most touching notes, of many, that I received during last year was from Debbie, a former client whose illness exposed the vulnerability that lives in all of us:
“There are few things harder to adjust to psychologically, after a lifetime of independence and success, than the reality that severe, life-threatening illness is your new reality, and that your finances have been devoured by the US healthcare system.
To have always given help can actually make it harder to accept that you are now in a position where you need to ask for help caring for yourself in the most basic ways. You worked with my physician to get me the meals I needed, when I needed them. And as I grew stronger, you adjusted to my lessening dependence, until now—I’ve graduated!
Please know that I am truly grateful to each and every one of you-from your dietitians and cooks and packers, to the schedulers and routers and delivery people, and all the people like you who keep the lights on and salaries paid.”
Debbie’s message is as much to you as it is to the staff of Food & Friends. Together, we are neighbors helping neighbors. COVID-19 or not, we are there for our seriously ill neighbors in their moments of greatest need.
As people become vaccinated, I look forward to welcoming you back in our facility for volunteer shifts and tours. It’s been a long road, but we’ll be together soon.
Thank you for your unwavering support this past year. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about all that you helped us accomplish.
Carrie Stoltzfus, MPH