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Community Sharing Keeps Food Flowing
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Student volunteers carry boxes of food to the car of a recipient during Oakdale Community Sharing’s food distribution on Tuesday morning, March 24. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

There are many things throughout the City of Oakdale that aren’t the same as they were one week ago. As schools have been closed, the majority of eateries restricted to take-out only and essential businesses only encouraged to be open, one might feel a sense of uneasiness in so much change.

Yet this has not stopped Fred Rich and his team at Oakdale Community Sharing Christian Center.

“The issue is going to be separation,” the President of the not-for-profit food pantry said late last week.

As Rich looked ahead to the coming Tuesday he was hopeful yet uncertain if they would be able to serve their clients as they have each Tuesday for decades before.

On Tuesday, March 24 they were open for business and while operations may have looked a bit different, their clients received food all the same.

“What we have done, is we have had a menu for the last 10 years. We have changed that,” Rich said of alterations made to accommodate the changes in place due to COVID-19, “so that last week and into the future, as long as we’re under the stay put order, we’re going to have a preset box of food to give to our clients.”

Additional changes Rich noted included elimination of signing in, sharing of pencils or space, for that matter. Clients were allowed to come in as long as they are an existing client. They were instructed to stay in their cars and individually come to the door to get an appropriate box size to suit their family. Each box is identical in its contents.

Recognizing that close to all of the volunteers of Community Sharing are in the at-risk category of being over the age of 65, Rich shared they are grateful for a small group of young volunteers who have recently stepped up to help at the distribution center.

“Most of us that are in that crowd are willing to put ourselves at a little bit of risk to help people that need it. We will try our hardest to be safe,” Rich stated.

“There are some of us that can’t help ourselves, that’s in our nature,” he added of the volunteers who have continued to show up and help assemble boxes for distribution. Aside from the distribution of food, all other resources of Community Sharing have been temporarily shut down.

The role of the young volunteers has been to carry the boxes of items to the cars of recipients.

“The safest thing would be to stay home and right now most of us aren’t willing to do that,” Rich said. “We certainly won’t violate the law, but if we are able we will in the safest way possible try to do what’s necessary so that we can deliver food for as long as possible.”

The Community Sharing President also said that everyone has been accommodating as well as understanding and supportive. They are currently not taking donations for distribution, but would benefit greatly from a donation of masks as well as hand sanitizer for the center and its volunteers. Those are two commodities which they have yet to acquire.

“Homes don’t need 25 containers of hand sanitizer,” Rich said. “It would be nice if they would make those available to grocery stores and distribution centers who are helping people.”

As things continued smoothly this past Tuesday morning, aside from an initial rush at 8 a.m., recipients tended to trickle in, maintaining a steady flow to keep the volunteers busy.

“I’m kind of corny, I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing,” Rich said of continuing to work at the center. “I don’t have anxiety involved with what I’m doing. I feel like it’s the right thing to do. In fact I feel it’s probably more essential now than it was six months ago.”

For information on receiving help through Oakdale Community Sharing, call 209-847-3401.