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Stepping forward to pay it back

Jun 17, 2020 | Newsletter, Foodbank Blog

Mark and Lisa Haley of Corning have been regular fixtures at Community Food Distributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark and Lisa Haley, of Corning, know food insecurity.

“My mom was a single parent with two kids to feed. It was tough. I grew up familiar with programs like WIC and reduced-price school lunch,” Lisa says.

Mark’s parents were disabled, and the family relied on assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs and food pantries.

“As a child I didn’t understand the importance of these programs. But now, I have the opportunity to give back,” Mark says. “I could have been the kid who went hungry, and now I want to help make sure others don’t live that way.”

Mark and Lisa responded immediately when the Food Bank called on volunteers to pack emergency food boxes to distribute in response to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. The Haleys also volunteered at Community Food Distributions across our six-county service area, stepping up to help cars navigate the drive-thru distribution process. The couple gave a donation from their business, Big Ink Tattoos and Piercing in Arnot Mall, and started volunteering regularly last fall.

Mark and Lisa were among the first to volunteer to pack emergency food boxes as the threat of school and business closures loomed.

“We wanted to feel like our contributions were helping feed kids like us,” Lisa says. “Spending time in the warehouse makes me feel connected to the people I’m helping, and knowing that the Food Bank can stretch our dollars to provide so many meals confirms they are the right choice for donations.”

Unfortunately, Big Ink, like so many other small businesses across the country, had to close operations by order of the State in mid-March, leaving their staff of nine without employment.

“I wasn’t prepared emotionally for this,” Lisa says. “The hardest thing for me was telling our staff that we had to close. With so many uncertainties, I had to assure my friends and family that we all would be okay, and that was incredibly difficult.”

Volunteering gave the Haleys a sense of purpose when the shutdown paused their livelihood.

Lisa helps direct traffic at a drive-thru Community Food Distribution at the Chemung County Fairgrounds in April.

“Considering our childhoods, we know that food insecurities effect more people than you realize. Many people in otherwise ‘normal’ situations struggle to provide their family meals. Some may be embarrassed or unlikely to accept help,” Mark says. “Having a successful local business and a large social network, we have tried to make our service and donations public,” he adds. “Hopefully, those in our network who can help will be inspired to help. Likewise, those we know who may be struggling may find the Food Bank as a resource.”