OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Community members in Osceola County are doing their part by offering a drive-thru pantry for those struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
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The drive-thru pantry was scheduled to hand out items from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, but it started several hours earlier after organizers said the lines were already too long outside.
Organizers said they gave out enough food for 500 families and had to close the gates at 12 p.m. to prevent people from getting in line and leaving empty-handed.
"We're giving them vegetables, food, milk, and cans, meat and orange juice," said one volunteer from the Osceola Council in Aging.
Millie Vasquez and her neighbor, Matthew Klein, got in line at 7 a.m., just to make sure they had something to eat after they were laid off last week.
“It helps a lot,” Vasquez said.
Organizations participating in the drive-thru pantry include:
- Osceola Council on Aging
- Community Hope Center
- Salvation Army
- St. Cloud Food Pantry
- City of Kissimmee
- Osceola Heritage Park
- Second Harvest Food Bank
The organizations will hand out food to those who are experiencing hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a news release, residents will drive-thru and collect food and fresh veggies on-site at the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee.
“These organizations were seeing the need and came together to help those who are stressed and worried about putting food on their tables, so these organizations are working together to make Osceola County a safe and healthy community,” the news release said.
As the number of coronavirus cases rises exponentially, so does the number of people coming in at places like the St. Cloud Community Pantry.
[Timeline: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]
“A lot of our clients are getting their last paycheck next Friday,” executive director Tammi Madison said. “So I know next month is going to be a lot busier.”
Ana Murillo didn't mind waiting in line. She's 71 years old and now fears the familiarity of the aisles at the grocery store.
Photos from the Council On Aging's drive-thru food pickup event at @OHP_Venues. About 500 families today received free food.— OsceolaEOC (@OsceolaEOC) March 26, 2020
Strong community partners who make events like this happen, in a well-organized manner, are a big part of how @OsceolaCountyFl will get through #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/kykfpYyouz
“It’s hard for us to get to the store,” she said. “A lot of people go out and they don’t care. They don’t clean up. They don’t appreciate everything they’re telling us to take care of. I’m asthmatic and I’m very scared I’m going to get sick.”
Organizers say they’re already planning another drive through food pantry in the near future.
“It’s what we’re made of,” Osceola Council on Aging Volunteer Coordinate Marie Blackford said. “That’s America for you. That’s what we do.”