COVID was in the United States and working across New York State. Monday, March 16, was a mad scramble to convert Resurrection Life Food Pantry, one of WNY’s largest food pantries from a “client choice” pantry to a pre-packed drive-thru, and we had less than 24 hours to accomplish this.
In the middle of the scramble I received a call that my 83-year-old father would not make it much longer. I needed to get on a flight to Miami immediately. I was facing my own personal crisis and it was about to get worse. I literally had to leave the staff and volunteers in the middle of the unknown to handle a situation of uncertainties, with no time for a trial run.
Tuesday morning I caught a flight with my children to Miami to be with my Dad. By Friday, Dad was settled in Hospice and we were told it could be 24 hours or several weeks, so I made the decision to fly home with the kids and return to dad’s bedside within 48 hours….I didn’t make it back for 3 months.
COVID had struck our family. I tested positive in that first group of 300 in WNY. I had self quarantined when symptoms began but it became mandatory when the sheriff showed up on my doorstep with the legal paperwork. Two days after my return from Miami my father passed away followed immediately by positive COVID tests for my mother, brother, and son. It was one of the first times in my life I felt helpless. Grieving my father's death almost took a back seat as our family battled through COVID. No details are needed but I’ll answer the question I have been asked hundreds of times, “Was it as bad as they say?” YES!
After 21 days of quarantine I returned to the pantry in what I was sure would be chaos. Don’t misunderstand me, I knew the staff and volunteers would get the work done, however; I assumed it would be a systematic mess held together by hard work and dedication.
Imagine my surprise when I walked through those doors to see the pantry working...without me! The staff and volunteers had taken the plan and adjusted it, improved it, “worked it”. Since that first day back I have not made one change to the system they had put in place. Why mess with perfection!
After serving 20 years in the pantry , 7 years as Director, it only took me 5 minutes to recognize that I was the weak link in our organization. 175 volunteers with skill sets I had never uncovered because I assumed a volunteer should do what I needed them to do instead of what they were capable of doing. I had managed inventory, grants, bookkeeping, client relations, procedures, donations, donor relations, and overall operations. I was under the misguided illusion that I was the only one that could manage everything. Today I sit back and drink a lot of coffee and an occasional beer (wink wink), laugh a lot, and relax in the work being done by the most amazing volunteers in WNY. (Yep, I’m biased). My load is lighter and I am happy to hand off any project while taking advantage of the skill sets the volunteers bring to the table!
Since that day in March, Resurrection Life Food Pantry has been designated as a high capacity/high priority agency serving WNY – 450 new families have been added to our client base and food donations and purchases will surpass one million pounds in 2020! Volunteers have worked outside in rain, snow, sleet, hail, intense heat and gusting winds for almost 6 months and will continue as we begin plans to make the drive-thru pantry a permanent part of our operation. In the interim, temporary structures will be built to protect volunteers serving outside in Buffalo’s ever changing weather conditions.
This is Our Story!