Preventing families from facing hunger is a challenge during the COVID-19 health crisis. Helping Harvest, our local food bank, has more than doubled the amount of food being distributed on a weekly basis to food pantries and organizations like Olivet Boys and Girls Club. Last Thursday, scores of cars lined the street leading to Oakbrook Olivet Boys and Girls Club, along with dozens of families standing in line – all waiting for a food distribution.
“There were families waiting in line an hour before we started,” said Leo Martinez, Olivet’s director of maintenance. “We are going to feed about 1,000 families in two days because there is a need in the community; not everyone is as well off as others.” Stacks of food boxes, bags of potatoes and other food items supplied by Helping Harvest were ready for distribution at the Olivet site.
“While food distribution is not something Olivet does as part of their normal operations, they are adapting their efforts to serve the community during this crisis, like many other organizations. Our area’s nonprofits are committed to helping,” said Tammy White, President of United Way of Berks County. Olivet is a United Way agency partner, and White joined Olivet’s staff to distribute food to the families.
“This is such a good thing for the community, especially with everything happening in the world,” Oakbrook resident Lilliam Alvarez shared. “It’s very organized, and what they have to offer is a huge benefit and appreciated.” Lilliam’s family was among the nearly 200 families who received food at the distribution.
With the pandemic creating increased demands on nonprofit services, United Way created the Berks COVID-19 Response Fund. To date, more than $580,000 has been raised to help local nonprofits respond to the pandemic. Donations are tripled thanks to generous matches in place from Customers Bank and The Kindness Coalition Foundation, Karen and John Arnold, with each providing $100,000 in matching funds. To make a contribution, please visit uwberks.org or text UWBCGIVE to 85511. Additional support to the fund was made by Wyomissing Foundation and the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust, with a donation of $100,000 from each.