By Chad Robinson, Community Relations Director
If you are like me, it is hard to remember what one year ago was like. It is hard to remember what I was doing or what thoughts were going through my head. It is hard to remember what my professional responsibilities were at the time or how the social groups I am a member of were meeting. It is hard to remember what my family was planning for the upcoming holiday or what Sunday dinner was going to consist of. All of these things are hard to remember because they are all different today.
None of these things are the same as they were one year ago today. Why, you ask? We all know why. In March of 2020, all of our lives changed forever. We have now all been a part of a truly “once in a generation” event – COVID-19. The worldwide pandemic has affected every part of our lives and every corner of our world. It has impacted us in ways we never even imagined were possible. The last major worldwide pandemic was in 1918, so very few of us, if any, remember what that was like and the world has changed DRAMATICALLY since then.
COVID-19 has reshaped how we all view the world and our place in it. As Shannon Thompson said, “We were together even when we were apart.” Isn’t that how we can all describe the past year? We have experienced quarantine and social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitizer, lack of toilet paper and a mad dash to the meat counter in the super market. We have lived through a nationwide state of emergency, two weeks to flatten the curve, the missed family celebrations, the lack of handshakes and hugs, the cancelled vacations, working from home, ZOOM meetings and most bothersome the fogged up glasses that won’t stop from wearing your mask. Lily Tomlin said it best when she said, “we are all in this together, by ourselves.”
While I have struggled with all these things, I have also done everything in my power to look for the silver lining. I have tried to sit back and really concentrate on what really matters the most. Here’s what I have discovered for me. While I have always believed it, I have determined that life is all about relationships and it is important to nurture them, even when we can’t be together physically. A call or a text message means a lot to those we love and care about. I have come to believe that change is like a highway, there may be a pothole here and there, but overall it’s going to get you to your destination. Most important, I have firmly and without equivocation determined that that we can accomplish anything when we work together. I have seen that every day at the Food Bank of Delaware.
Over the past year, I have realized more than I knew before that I am blessed to work in this place. I am surrounded by people that care deeply, not just about their job and their paycheck, but for the people we serve each day.
I have watched our Operations staff move Heaven and Earth to get product in the door and then move it just as quickly back out the door. This has been no small feat, as since March 16, 2020 that is product movement to the tune of almost 18 million pounds – more than DOUBLE what we typically distribute in a year.
I have watched our Programs staff check in literally thousands and thousands of clients who have come to us for assistance. They have put a smile on their face each day and shepherded each individual who has come to a distribution or event, many of them for the first time. Again, no small feat as in just our Healthy Pantry Centers (our onsite food distribution locations in Newark and Milford) we have served almost 35,000 households and another almost 45,000 at mass distribution events.
I have watched our Development, Finance and Communications teams, typically in the office personnel, step up and serve at distribution events to ensure we could get food resources into the hands of those who needed it. Communications continued to tell our story with every media or interview request that wanted an understanding of our work. Development continued to process every donation that came in the door. Those donations came from every corner of our State from concerned individuals with notes saying, “I know how much need there is in our community right now and I wanted to help.”
I have watched our Workforce Development and Farm staff figure out how to operate in a whole new environment. Our Culinary and L.O.G.I.C. instructors helped our students transition from in-person to virtual instruction, while ensuring that no learning opportunities were missed. Our Farm staff worked to plant and harvest, while ensuring our CSA continued to operate and pick-ups could be made in our retrofitted café in a socially-distanced setting.
I have watched our Volunteer Room staff work with the literally thousands of amazing volunteers that have stepped up to serve during this time. They have been separating tasks, working our community and mass distributions and ensuring that all of our volunteers have been able to mask up and get our work done.
I have watched our Hunger Relief Partners (HRPs) and community support agencies step up. We couldn’t have served everyone we did without all of HRPs that served their communities. From food pantries and food closets to child nutrition sites, each one rose to the challenges we faced. On the community side, our entire year wouldn’t have been possible without some amazing groups. While, I don’t want to get in trouble by missing someone on a list – the Delaware Department of Transportation, the Delaware National Guard, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, the Delaware Division of Public Health and the Delaware Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (DEVOAD) have been tremendous. We are so thankful.
I am convinced that in the last year I have seen the best in the world. I refuse to let the darkness that has enveloped our world stop me from seeing the good that has been done by so many. I am proud of the Food Bank of Delaware and what we have accomplished this year. As I have said, we are made for times like this, and I thankful that this time came while I could see it. I know though that all the positivity I have seen is in no small part thanks to the efforts that many have put forward. On this one-year anniversary, I want to say to my colleagues at the Food Bank of Delaware you all are rock stars and thank you for the time that you have put in. To all of our partners and community support organizations, thank you for doing everything you have done to ensure our community has access to the food they need. To all of our donors and friends, thank you for making our work possible through the giving of your time, talents and treasures.
While I am hopeful that the next year will be better than the last and that we will be able to shed all of the new norms of the last year soon, don’t forget that we are all in this together and that we will all rise together only by lifting each other up. Stay safe and don’t forget to continue to wear your mask, socially distance, wash your hands and get vaccinated when it is your turn. Better days are coming and together with you, we at the Food Bank of Delaware will be here with you to ensure a “Community Free of Hunger.”