SPRINGFIELD — Even before the 10 a.m. start Saturday morning, a line of motorists backed onto Sproul Road with food for the contact-free food collection program sponsored by state Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, D-165 of Springfield. The event was held in the parking lot of her district office at 905 W. Sproul Road with the help of volunteers from the Operating Engineers, Fraternal Order Police 27, Glen Mills School and IBEW 654.
Motorists with food to donate pulled up, popped their trunks, and the volunteers, wearing masks, quickly scooped up their donations and loaded them into pickup trucks bound for one of three food pantries – the Shorter AME Church in Morton, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Broomall and the Holy Cross Catholic Church Food Pantry in Springfield.
“Everyone assumes because I am in an area like Springfield or Marple, we don’t need that kind of help, but everyone needs support,” said O’Mara.
O’Mara said she has been seeing pleas online for donations from different food pantries, referring to the growing need for help is growing as unemployment continues to surge as a result of layoffs from the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, the hardest part is asking.
“I’ve noticed that asking for help is often the most the difficult step,” O’Mara said. “We’ve made a form where you can anonymously request food resources and we will email it to you. And people are using it.”
“There are thousands in Delaware County – middle class, upper middle class – who have had their financial foundation torn out from underneath them,” said Maria Kollar of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Broomall. “Our numbers have doubled.”
Her food bank operates every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and every third Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Those in need can only visit the food bank once a month, and must use resources elsewhere to fill in that gap. Even with that, the droves keep coming with unemployment numbers soaring due to businesses closed for coronavirus mitigation.
“It’s a lot. It’s a lot,” Kollar said of the numbers of people coming to St. Mark’s for food. “Last week, for sure, we saw about 200 people. Most of the clients we’ve seen mid-March, at least half of them are brand new and they’re coming from all over the county.”
Among the high-need items that pantries are looking are dry food goods, peanut butter, canned meats and tuna, stews, soups, cereal, paper towels, toilet paper, dish soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant and bar soap for bathing. Personal items such as soap, deodorant and cleaning items are particularly needed since they are not available through food assistance programs.
Among those donating was Paul Mulholland of St. Anastasia parish in Newtown Square. He noted that one local pantry, St. Mark’s, had served 1,000 people in need recently.
“We had a lot of food accumulated so I brought it by,” said Mulholland. “There is an entire network that works together. The need is always there. This virus is taking it to another level.”
On Saturday, the operation moved swiftly, with two lanes of motorists pulling through at the same time. As pickup trucks filled up, they headed out to the different pantries. By the end, more than 13 pickup truck loads of food were collected.
“That’s what’s so wonderful about seeing the community show up in such force today,” O’Mara said. “We’re all in this together.”
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