Darlene and David Bachman were just about ready to retire from food pantry volunteer service to spend time with grandchildren, camp, and pursue retirement jobs. And then, the world changed.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit New York state and put the Bachman’s plans on hold.
Darlene has coordinated the food pantry at Pennsylvania Avenue United Methodist for 14 years, with David, a retired Southport police officer and highway supervisor, volunteering alongside her. The pantry operates two Saturdays a month, typically serving around 150 families each day. The Bachmans were ready to step back and the pantry was going to close April through August while leadership determined how to function without them leading the team of committed volunteers.
“But then the virus hit in March, and we knew it wasn’t the right time to step away and reorganize,” Darlene says.
So, the Bachmans stayed and the panty quickly responded to coronavirus by developing a social-distancing process for volunteers to pack and distribute food. When schools and businesses closed amidst the pandemic, the pantry saw up to 400 families attending each drive-thru distribution. Additionally, pantry volunteers served dozens of new clients on random weekdays.
“So many people who have never needed help were showing up; people who had no idea of what food pantries do and where they could find them – business owners who have had to close, or their employees,” Darlene says. “It’s a whole different dynamic than it’s ever been before.”
Darlene says the food pantry will remain open through at least August, or until the high volume of people needing help decreases as businesses re-open and the economy improves.
“We don’t want the pantry to close its doors because Pennsylvania Avenue United Methodist Church has fed people in need for more than 20 years,” she says.
A former Food Bank volunteer coordinator, Darlene has a lot she wants to do in retirement, but she could not leave when so many neighbors are in need due to the economic downturn caused by coronavirus.
“I can give you all kinds of data about food insecurity but really, I’m a person with a deep faith in God, and everyone has a God-given right to have enough food,” Darlene says. “In a country of so much excess wealth and gluttony, there are children that don’t have enough to eat, and I just can’t stand that.”