Life has been moving really fast since the COVID-19 pandemic started — especially for us at United Community!
As we rush to provide our neighbors in need with the food, diapers, and resources to help them through this pandemic, we wanted to take a minute to highlight just a few of the amazing community members who have brightened our day these past few weeks!
Masks of Love
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Lydia Guerrero wanted to do something to help her community. Unfortunately, her health made it difficult to volunteer at the Food Pantry. So when one of our staff members reached out to her, asking for mask donations, she quickly replied “I’ll make the masks for you!”.
Lydia spent hours researching the best designs and materials. An experienced quilter, with her own Etsy store, Lydia even made several prototypes to ensure the masks would protect our staff and volunteers. Finally, she painstakingly wrote a detailed instruction sheet on how to use and care for each mask.
The masks brought a great deal of comfort to our staff and volunteers during these stressful times.
“When I learned how much time she put into everything, I started to cry,” staff member Marcia St. John-Cunning related. “There truly are no words to adequately express our gratitude for the degree of time and care she put into every stitch of every mask she donated to us.
In addition to Lydia’s masks, United Community also received a donation of masks from an anonymous donor. Both donations will be used to protect the health and safety of our staff and volunteers while they continue to serve our community.
Food For Neighbors Steps in to Help our Neighbors in Need
Food For Neighbors has been partnering with schools in our area, including Walt Whitman Middle School, for the past year. Based in Reston, Food For Neighbors operates the “Red Bag Program” — which collects little red food bags from donors’ houses to prepare ‘weekend bags’ so children who depend on Free & Reduced School Meals don’t have to go hungry over the weekend.
As soon as Fairfax County Public Schools announced they were closing, Community Organizer Laura Wainwright quickly mobilized, putting together 400 grab bags using donations she had received and any remaining food from the food pantry at Walt Whitman Middle School. These grab bags were distributed at Walt Whitman, as students came to pick up their laptops for “distance learning”.Grab bags were also distributed in the Creekside and Audobon communities.
“We’re so grateful to Food For Neighbors for all that they’ve done,” Walt Whitman Community Schools Coordinator Delia Montecinos shared. “We know that the grab bags are small — but it meant a lot to our families.”
“We Give Because We Should — Especially Now!”
“Yesterday after the pantry had closed for the day, we heard a ring outside the front door. It was a young high school senior who wanted to make a food donation. He brought along his younger brother to help him deliver their food donation to our pantry.
He was greeted by Cristina (Director of Progreso). Cristina kindly greeted both young men and thanked them for their donation. When she learned that they had several boxes of food she asked me for assistance bringing the food inside.
Because of the social distancing, we could not permit the young men inside the building. So I rolled over an empty grocery cart to the young man. He and his younger brother began to load it up with canned veggies, fruit, cereal, snacks, pasta etc.
When the cart was almost full, Cristina and I expressed our gratitude to them for taking time to donate during these tough times.
The young man explained that he was helping his grandmother who wanted so badly to continue to help families in need of food. He explained because of the severity of the pandemic his grandmother would seriously be risking her life to continue this type of work and service.
“I figured since my brother and I are no longer able to go to school, why not keep busy and lend a hand,” he said “I would also make my grandmother very happy!”
I asked him if would he like a donation slip to give to his grandmother.
He kindly declined, “no Ma’am, we do this all the time at our church. My grandmother gives because we should, especially now.”
Cristina then asked what church do you attend? With pride the young man responded, “Saint Aidan’s Episcopal Church”. Cristina and I thanked the young men once again as we pushed the cart full of food inside the pantry.
Torria Baker is the Director of United Community’s Early Learning Center. Cristina Schoendorf is the Director of United Community’s Progreso Literacy and Citizenship Center. Like many of our amazing staff, Torria and Cristina continue to work hard to help families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please support their efforts by making a donation to United Community’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund