The American Red Cross has been a longtime partner of United Way, dating back to the 1950s. So, when they saw an opportunity to jump in and help feed thousands in the Bloomington-Normal community during the coronavirus pandemic, they didn’t waste a minute. The American Red Cross of Illinois is assisting, logistically, to feed folks, offering their vehicles and volunteers to help pick up food from stores, pack food in warehouses and deliver it where it needs to go.
With the help of the American Red Cross of Illinois, United Way of McLean County (UWMC) has established a successful COVID-19 Community Care Fund, addressing urgent needs. Food access and food insecurity were two of the biggest issues. Since March 30th, UWMC and existing initiatives in the community have provided meals to school district food programs, including five school districts, purchasing over 900 pounds of fresh produce from local farms for LeRoy, Unit 5, Lexington, Olympia and Ridgeway. They’ve also purchased bread and chicken broth from Meijer and Kroger to help feed over 500 families a week.
Lynda Hruska is the Executive Director of the American Red Cross serving Central Illinois. She says this partnership has been impactful to the volunteers.
“It has really been a way for our volunteers to be a part of this incredible work that this team is doing. Often times in a disaster, we’re in the lead role. We’re sheltering, feeding, and in this one, we are using volunteers to plug in to a community-wide project. It’s been very heartwarming to be part of this huge network seeing different people playing different roles and truly making a difference.”
Aside from school food programs, the Red Cross and United Way are partnering with existing initiatives to purchase boxed meals from local restaurants to support their employees and distribute those meals through local non-profits. As of May 8th, they’ve served more than 44,575 meals!
And of course, nothing goes to waste. The Red Cross volunteers go back to the warehouse and pick up any unused perishables and deliver them to Home Sweet Home Mission so they can be utilized without waste.
But UWMC and the Red Cross agree the effort doesn’t stop here. This team has continued to look at not only the initial food insecurity issue, but other human issues that are facing the community as a result of this pandemic. With help from partners in the community, they’ve provided and distributed over 500 food boxes, locally, and more than 300 face masks to distribution volunteers, to keep them safe and protected during this project.
The need continues. The Red Cross is here, and will be here, to help our communities.
Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager