Delivering Hope in a Time of COVID-19

Story by Kalen Pippins / Red Cross Cascades Region

I was sitting at my desk around 8 p.m. finishing up homework assignments from my University of Oregon classes when I received an email looking for volunteers.

“The Cascades Region of the Red Cross will be assisting the Oregon Food Bank with three food bank sites.”

My immediate reaction – YES!

Kalen Pippins, Springfield, OR. Photo by Carisa Hettich / American Red Cross.

I was so excited to hear about this opportunity. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact everyone throughout the country, food insecurity has become a growing issue for residents in Eugene and Springfield.

I’ve noticed many food banks have been shut down in the Cascades Region because of health concerns. That leaves many families without essentials like rice and fresh produce.

As an American Red Cross volunteer in Eugene, I had been waiting for a chance to help those in need, especially those who don’t have enough food.

I immediately registered for the food bank shifts.

Like many of my friends, I’m a student and part-time worker. Due to the coronavirus, I now have a little extra time on my hands and was excited to put it to good use.

The next morning I started my first shift at the Catholic Community Services Food Pantry in Springfield. This pantry is one of three local food banks that has partnered with the Red Cross.

Kalen Pippins stocking dry food bags. Springfield, OR, 2020. Photo by Carisa Hettich/American Red Cross.

Admittedly, I got a little turned around when I arrived, so it took me a couple of minutes to find my way into the service center. However, I talked to a couple of clients during my scavenger hunt.

One man expressed his gratitude for my work because he hadn’t eaten since the previous morning. I hadn’t even started putting food boxes together and I already saw the impact of this Red Cross-food bank partnership.

Once I got into the center, I began compiling bags of food for those waiting in line. The support from the food bank workers was amazing. I immediately felt like I knew what I was doing. Each volunteer had a specific position to encourage social distancing, so I felt safe in what I was doing.

One thing particularly stood out during the shift: a positive attitude.

In my five years of working at a grocery store, I’d never experienced such a commitment to the mission. Every person in the food bank wanted to be there. The energy of the room was amazing and there was a true purpose in the work we were doing.

Dry food bags ready for those that need them. Photo by Kalen Pippins / American Red Cross.

At the end of the day, we fed 71 clients. That’s 71 homes that can now live more comfortably with stocked pantries and full fridges. We also put together about 120 dry food bags to be handed out in the following week.

I am so thankful to the Red Cross, the volunteers and all the community partners that are providing these resources all over our region.

Volunteering at the food bank was a great opportunity and I recommend it to everyone looking for ways to give back. And with everyone struggling together, now is the perfect time to give back.