By Dave Davis
To say that we are living in interesting times just might be the understatement of the century. On a macro level, we are staring into an abyss that seems to have only widened over the last several years, and appears to have reached its darkest depths during the recent events that took place at our nation’s Capitol building.
Much has been said about those who gathered and participated in the insurrection, begging the question: “Is this who we are?”
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of these unthinkable developments that have unfolded before us. It would be myopic to think that there aren’t those elements within our country that for various reasons, have chosen violence and other means, to make themselves heard.
That being said, it shouldn’t detract from what’s happening at the grassroots level, here on the East End of Long Island, where exceptional souls are making a significant difference in the lives of others.
Not unlike many other places around the country, folks are struggling to make ends meet; primarily due to employment situations that have all but vanished as a result of the pandemic and the necessary protocols that have been implemented. Certain industries and businesses are taking a big hit financially, leaving scores without a reliable paycheck and the ability to put food on their table.
In the past week, I had the opportunity to re-visit and speak with personnel involved with the purchasing, packing and distribution of food to thousands of individuals via our local community food pantries. Since the onset of Covid-19, each facility has seen the demand for their services literally triple in volume. Some of these locations sprung up in response to the pandemic.
For those not familiar with the effort that’s required for such an undertaking, take my word, it’s truly astounding. Securing grants, developing relationships with reliable sourcing outlets, and overseeing timely deliveries to the pantry are but a few of the challenges each location faces before a single grocery bag is ever packed.
Though the physical layout of each site varies depending on the availability of dedicated space and the pantry’s original function (school, museum, church etc), you’ll find the makings of an organized, methodical operation.
Elevated commercial-grade steel racks stand end-to-end, filled with pasta, rice, and every type of canned food under the sun. In some locations, large packages of diapers and other baby essentials are provided. Depending on its distribution day, what appear to be endless rows of stuffed brown paper grocery bags can be seen lining the aisles, awaiting imminent departure.
The one common element that clearly stood out in every facility and was echoed by each coordinator was the ceaseless commitment amongst the dedicated team of volunteers who gather to mobilize such an incredible, selfless operation. Each director will tell you that, while their name usually appears in the papers, there are scores of others who carry out the tasks, week in, week out.
Who we are: The local farmers and their crews who’ve stepped up by contributing fresh produce to provide families with healthier options beyond pre-packaged items with longer shelf lives.
Who we are: The hundreds of professionals working in the medical field, walking the tightrope each and every day, providing necessary care to others at the risk of their own health.
Who we are: The educators, librarians, grocery store workers, delivery persons, and countless others that continue to go above and beyond the call of duty, in order to ensure that each and every one of us has what we need during these uncertain times.
And finally, maybe the most telling example of “who we are” that I recently witnessed came in the form of a GoFundMe campaign that was posted only hours after a tragic loss of life that occurred in Amagansett, when a mother was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking her two young children home from school.
As a preschool teacher, this unfortunate event resonated deeply with me — how such a senseless incident, which took merely seconds, could have life-long implications for this beautiful family. It’s often in these situations that we feel quite helpless, yet wanting to do more.
What I hadn’t realized was just how many others felt as I had. Despite Covid, despite the economic hardship many are experiencing, despite our political differences; the East End community was unified (over 900 donors raising $80,000 as of this writing), in support of a single family in need. That, my friends…is who we are.