By Hayley Crandall
‘Tis the season of donating and receiving!
Bay View Community Center, 1320 E. Oklahoma Ave., has kicked off December with it Countdown to the Holidays Donation Drive. The drive collects items for the center’s emergency food pantry and runs until Dec. 24.
The format, as described by the center, is a “reverse advent calendar” as each day highlights a different food or household item needed for the pantry. Items include rice, canned fruits, bar soap and more.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic called for extra assistance, and the center broadened its operating area, Food Security Director Laura Ehr explained.
“We used to only go west to 27th Street, but due to COVID-19 and the incredible increase in need that we saw, we decided to expand our service area,” Ehr said.
Despite still being early in the month, the organization has already seen a great response from the community, Ehr explained.
“I was just starting to take an inventory of what we’ve received so far, and we’ve got all the scalloped potatoes we need, and we’re well on our way with brown sugar and carrots,” Ehr said. “When I come in on Tuesday mornings, there are just piles of donated items. We’ve had a pretty big outpour from the community.”
Ehr feels people have felt the need to give even more this year. The number of customers for the food pantry has risen and she believes the community understands the hardships many are tackling.
“I think people understand that people are pretty hard hit by COVID-19,” Ehr said. “The economy is suffering, and the need is really great. Our numbers in the emergency food pantry have quadrupled from last year. It’s staggering and I can’t tell you how many people I see that come through the food pantry and say, ‘I’ve never been in this position before. I’ve never been without a job before.’ People are really hard-up right now. I think the greater community understands that.”
Some of the collected items went towards the center’s holiday box meals, which is a kit that supplies families with ingredients to make their own family holiday meal.
“For families that are really struggling, being able to provide not just food on the table but a special holiday meal is really meaningful,” Ehr said.
Drop-off and food pantry pickups are both contactless. All donations must be non-expired and unopened. A full list of items can be found on the Bay View Community Center’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/BayViewCommunityCenter/.
The drive operates Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Bay View Community Center, 1320 E. Oklahoma Ave., from now until Dec. 24. Further information, including serviced areas, can be found on the website, https://bayviewcenter.org/.
A coat drive is also in the works, according to Ehr. Collection begins the week of Dec. 21 and runs until Jan 15. The center is looking for new or gently worn coats, hats and mittens. No boots will be accepted. Pickup dates include Jan. 5, 6, 8, 12, 13 and 15 during food pantry hours.