Union, members donate more than $8,900 and nearly 1,500 pounds of food
By SHERI GASSAWAY
The Arnold Food Pantry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the pantry was forced to close its thrift store. Its revenues provide 40 percent of the pantry’s budget.
In May, the National Association of Letter Carriers’ annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, held for the past 27 years on the second Saturday in May, was postponed, leading to a shortage of canned goods for the pantry.
That’s on top of the fact that the pantry had to cancel all its fundraising events for the year, including the Taste of Arnold, which by far is its largest fundraiser. Plus, many of the pantry’s volunteers who are retirees with preexisting health conditions stopped coming in to help because of the pandemic.
“One of my first thoughts at the beginning of the pandemic was how in the world are we going to keep this going,” said Phil Amato, president of the pantry’s board. “And then fundraising events kept being canceled. We started going through our list of those who have donated in the past and sending out emails requesting help.”
$8,926 IN CASH, 1,489 POUNDS OF FOOD
One of those emails was to Laborers Local 110, long known for its generous support for pantry, and the union certainly didn’t disappoint. It held a member food drive for the pantry in October, raising $4,463 in cash donations and 1,489 pounds of food. Local 110 matched its members’ cash donations for a grand total of $8,926.
“We just couldn’t be more appreciative,” Amato said. “Laborers 110 and its members always have been there for the food pantry and their generosity is truly amazing. We are blessed to have such a great friend and partner.”
2020 UNION HALL FOOD DRIVE
Over the last couple years, Local 110 has held a food drive for the pantry at its annual picnic held at Grant’s Farm. But like many events, this year’s picnic was canceled because of the coronavirus.
Instead, the union held the food drive at its hall and asked members to drop off canned goods and non-perishable food items or cash. In return, members who donated were entered into a drawing to win a $100 cash prize, with 40 chances to win. Winners were notified by phone.
“Many of our members who won asked that their winnings be donated back to the food pantry,” said Local 110 Business Manager Don Willey. “Our relationship with the food pantry goes back a long way. During the recession when Laborers were out of work, the pantry helped feed our members in Jefferson County. This is our way of giving back.”
LARGEST YEARLY CASH DONATION
The money raised during the food drive was in addition to a $2,500 donation Local 110 made in March as sponsors of the pantry’s April 25 annual concert fundraiser at Rickman Auditorium, which was canceled because of the pandemic. Local 110 also donated $1,000 to help the pantry after it had to close its thrift store in April.
In all, Local 110 has donated $12,426, plus nearly a ton of canned goods in 2020. It’s the largest yearly cash donation to the pantry in Local 110’s history. Since 2012, Local 110 has donated almost $44,000 and more than five tons of food.
ENCOURAGING BUILDING TRADES TO DONATE
Willey said the building trades have fared well during the pandemic with only about a two percent reduction in work. Meanwhile, members of other unions, including the entertainment, hospitality and food industries, are struggling.
“I’m encouraging all the building trades to donate to the Arnold Food Pantry or the $5 for the Fight Fund if they can to help those union members who are hurting,” he said.
ABOUT THE PANTRY
The Arnold Food Pantry, which serves over 300 families a year, is the largest non-denominational food distribution center in the St. Louis region that does not receive city, state or federal government funding.
For more information on the pantry or to donate, call 636-287-3663 or visit wefeedthehungry.org.