Food insecurity in Galesburg was already a problem before COVID-19 shut down schools in mid-March. So when Governor J.B. Pritzker issued stay-at-home orders three months ago, Knox County United Way director Laun Dunn knew her organization had to act fast.
“So many of our families are already on the brink, and with the job losses and everything, if we can ease their mind or ease the burden, every little bit helps,” Dunn said.
Some senior citizens were already in need, and the loss of District 205’s breakfast and lunch program cost many children two meals every weekday.
For those without a vehicle, the city’s buses were their only option. But was public transportation safe, and what if you had children in tow? Such barriers limited people’s access to food.
Volunteers responded immediately. Since mid-March, community members have gathered daily, Monday through Friday, to pack meals.
The effort is a collaboration between the United Way, the Knox County Y, the Volunteer Network on Aging, School District 205, other non-profits, and private donors.
In all, they have provided more than 40,000 meals since the shutdown began. Some food has been delivered to homes while Galesburg’s churches have operated pick-up locations for people with cars.
The community volunteers list a variety of reason for why they’re willing to pack and deliver food daily.
- Chuck Boydstun, a retired military veteran, said he is responding to a call to serve.
- Jakara Kelly, who will be a senior at Galesburg High School this fall, said this is her way of doing something productive and making the world a little better.
- Rikki Reed, the mother of four, said she understands the struggle of putting food on the table. She is volunteering to help those in need. “It’s a very big job. More hands make light work,” she said.
For others, volunteering their time is a personal mission.
Anthony Law and Joey Range normally interact with young people -- Law through Carl Sandburg College and Range through the Y.
They said many children and families they know are struggling financially due to job layoffs, furloughs, or losses. Law and Range have delivered 250 lunches to homes daily, Monday through Friday, since mid-March.
Law said, “This challenge has been much bigger than a virus. It’s food. It’s education. It’s social development.”
Most volunteers said they are not concerned about their own health. But COVID-19 has given Law pause. As a cancer survivor, he consulted with his oncologist before heading out. His physician understood Law’s passion to help families, and he gave Law the go-ahead to work in the community as long as he followed the necessary precautions.
Law said his health has been fine so he will continue to help out.
“I’m going to continue as long as they need me to do it. As long as we have young people and families in need, I’ll do that as long as I have to. There’s no end game to that,” Law said.
Meals will continue throughout the summer for anyone in the community. They are available for residents of all socioeconomic levels. There are no requirements and no paperwork to fill out.
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