Volunteering During a Pandemic

Personal insight on what it is like volunteering to pack food during the COVID-19 outbreak.

A+volunteer+is+pictured+packing+food+into+grocery+bags+to+go+to+a+%22vulnerable%22+family+through+either+a+church+or+a+school+district.+The+bags+are+packed+under+strict+conditions+%28such+as+wearing+masks+at+all+times%29+to+ensure+the+health+of+both+the+families+and+the+volunteers.

Faith Beckmann

A volunteer is pictured packing food into grocery bags to go to a "vulnerable" family through either a church or a school district. The bags are packed under strict conditions (such as wearing masks at all times) to ensure the health of both the families and the volunteers.

To be honest, when my mom first asked me if I would be interested in helping out with packing food bags with Calvary Church (the church I’ve been going to since birth), I was kind of confused. Weren’t we supposed to be social distancing? This cannot be sanitary. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized this would be a good thing. Reluctantly, I told her yes and she signed me, my older sister, and herself up to pack bags the following Tuesday.

When we arrived at the church, we made our way into the gym where the food was being currently held. It was almost overwhelming at first because there were dozens of boxes and cans of food stacked high all around the perimeter of the gym sectioned off for packaging. The director of the project was standing near the doorway and explained that we would need to put our stuff down and then wash our hands before putting on gloves. Another rule which wasn’t stated out loud (but is general knowledge) was that long hair needed to be tied up, so I did that as well during this time. My family group and I then moved out of the way as we waited for the rest of that night’s team to arrive. Altogether, there were about eight volunteers total.

Faith Beckmann
The area of the gym where the bags are packed is filled with piles of boxes containing various types of food. During the week, the other partners bring food donations up to Calvary Church to eventually be packed into bags.

Before we were able to start working, though, the director told us he needed to explain a few more things. He first thanked us for going out and working during the middle of the pandemic and then asked to make sure no one was sick or living with someone who was sick. He also told us that while we were packing bags, we were to practice social distancing by staying within our family groups and not walking near each other when bringing bags to their assigned tables or restocking our own tables. 

The final thing we talked about was who the food was going to. We were told that this effort had been partnered with Francis Howell and St. Charles School (and soon to include Orchard Farms) Districts to provide food for the most vulnerable families. These families were given to the church by counselors at the schools within the districts. We were told that most of the families either had no transportation or included providers who had lost their jobs, so doing this meant a lot to these families.

We then prayed for our safety and the safety of the families the bags were going to and we got to work. Each family group was assigned a station with its own number of bags to be filled. On the table lay a variety of can goods, pasta, snacks, and even toilet paper. Index cards were stuck to the front of each table and had the amount of each item we were supposed to give. The process itself wasn’t difficult at all. After awhile every group had its own system and worked in almost a factory line style. 

In a blink of an eye, all the bags were packed and filled. We were finished. The time frame we were given when we signed up was 6:30-8:30 p.m., but we all worked so quickly that all of the groups had finished by seven. The director was very impressed with how hard we had worked and thanked us once again before we prayed to close us out. 

This food bank project is run by a variety of different churches in the St. Louis area as well as food banks such as Oasis Food Bank and St. Jochim and Ann Food Bank, but ran out of Calvary. Each week, food is provided for about 125 families and counting. I was shocked with how much I enjoyed my experience helping out. It made me realize just how much this virus has affected others as well as how doing little things can really make a difference in the community and brighten someone’s day during this difficult time. Since volunteering the first time, I have packed bags one more time and I am scheduled to pack more again.