Dear Friend of Reach Out Lakota:
2020 was a year like no other in our country’s history. When COVID-19 struck and things started to shut down, my initial worry was that the pantry would also need to close if our volunteers couldn’t come. But many of our volunteers decided to face the risks in order to continue to serve their community. Our organization took extra precautions, worked with a slimmer crew and got the job done. The pantry remained open to provide food, as we have for 28 years, and we even added extra drive-up days to increase our giving.
Next, I worried that we would run out of food as we watched the lines of cars build to receive these emergency food boxes each Tuesday and Thursday. But the community came through! Donations from churches, groups and individuals poured in and week after week we were able to increase the amount of food we provided in each box — we never ran out of food.
In August and December we again looked to the community for funding to help the many children enrolled in our Back to School and Holiday Giving programs — and you consistently came through for us !
Throughout the year we trusted we would be able to meet the need of those in our community. We are so grateful for all who donated the time, food and funds that enabled us to continue to serve during this challenging year.
As you will see from the numbers and the stories in this annual report, it was a busy year and we served more people than ever. Because of you, we have helped ease the burden many experienced in 2020.
Our current support programs provide families with:
Additional special programs include:
In 2020, due to COVID-19, we:
Helena Cameron - President
Tiffany Stofel - Vice President
Jennifer Patsy - Secretary
Jennifer Burke - Treasurer
Sharon McGuire Co-Founder
Rev. Tyler Pettigrew
This year, our volunteers gave 8,281 hours of service!
Maria is one of the many whom you assist with your donations. She has several children with disabilities and her husband’s work takes him out of town regularly, thrusting the parenting role all on her shoulders and, from time to time, she needs help with food and clothing. She is often embarrassed by the behaviors of her children, but we assure her we understand and its ok. In fact, we are amazed at how well she is doing with all that she has on her plate. Alyson, our intake specialist, often has little treats for the kids to help keep them occupied as mom is doing some paperwork. Maria is always thankful and appreciative of the food and clothing items she receives and knowing we can help ease her day just a bit, reminds us all of why we are here.
In early April, Andrew Suski approached Reach Out Lakota with a wild idea — to run to raise money for the pantry. He wanted to run the streets of Beckett Ridge, all in one day, and on May 2, 2020, after lots of training and planning, Andrew did just that. He ran 75 miles in one day (the hottest day of May) and raised over $7,500 — a $100 for each mile run. It was an amazing effort and the support for him was fantastic. Andrew proved that one person can make a big difference when they put their mind to it.
Thank you to the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty for their financial support this year. Their support from the community health fund was a blessing. The pantry also received financial support from many grants, churches, schools, and businesses. But most of our support came from individuals who shared their blessings with those who found themselves in a tough situation.
The 2020 Corporate Food Fight was held in June with 17 participants. Almost 4000 pounds of food and over $5000 were collected as part of the competition. Congrats to Ruoff Home Mortgage who was our 1st place winner this year.
Stuff the Bus was once again a huge success. Thank you to the Lakota School Community for collecting over 15,000 pounds of food even during a pandemic. We had 2 full buses to unload!
Luckily our building is paid for. At over 20 years old, things have started to wear out. In June, both AC units stopped working. Our volunteers were troopers as they continued to work in the heat — and with masks — until we could get the units replaced. Throughout the year our van needed major repairs and we had issues with the floor in one of our closets. Finally, as the year ended, one of our freezers also stopped working. Thankfully it was still under warranty.
Positive improvements were also made to our building this year. We upgraded our lights to LED and have seen a cost savings in our electric bills as a result. A generous donation of nice cabinets and new shelving gave us better storage options and two new work tables provided volunteers additional space to gather, sort and pack food orders.
This year we were connected with new resources for free food. During the summer we picked up free milk and produce every week. By partnering with these new sources, we were able to give families lots of fresh produce — in addition to the food we normally provide — all summer long. We continue to find and partner with additional businesses who provide us with free produce and supplies.
Due to COVID-19, last-minute changes were made to the Holiday Giving program this year. Typically, enrolled families have the opportunity to “shop” and select specific toys for each of their children. That process would have required both our families and volunteers to spend long periods of time together at a time when social distancing was important. To lessen risk for everyone, instead of asking donors to provide toys, donations of $25 gift cards were requested. Despite this unplanned change, our donors did not disappoint!
821 preregistered children each received 2-$25 gift cards,
a stuffed animal and a gift card for a meal at Taco Bell.
From mid-March through the end of May (10 weeks) Reach Out Lakota provided emergency food boxes to those in need within the community. Supplies were distributed by drive-up for 2 hours on Tuesday and Thursday of each week. These boxes contained about 40lbs of food each and included canned goods, cereal, chicken or ground beef, fresh produce and more.