In the parking lot of Cortland’s Beaudry Park, Dave Schmit of Truxton handed off bags of food and supplies Wednesday to Bill Webster, a volunteer with the United Way for Cortland County.
Schmit heard about the organization’s Day of Caring food donation event and figured he could do some good.
“You got to help other people out,” he said.
Helping other people out was the objective for Wednesday’s Day of Caring food donation event by the United Way for Cortland County. Volunteers and members of the public came to Beaudry Park to donate food and other household items to help stock pantries across the county, said Elizabeth Webster, the campaign associate for the United Way for Cortland County.
The need for assistance from food pantries has grown greatly since the pandemic began, she said, noting that there were 500 times the number of calls Cortland’s 211 information center was receiving pre-pandemic.
The Food Bank of Central New York, which supplies many food pantries, re-ported recently it distributed 600,000 pounds of food between March and mid-August, more than double the 250,000 of the same period last year.
“For people who have been already vulnerable, this (pandemic) has put them across and in need,” Webster said.
Wednesday’s event, the 25th time the Day of Caring has been hosted, was different from past events, which featured a variety of community projects across Cortland County — which couldn’t happen with social distancing restrictions.
While everything donated was accepted, Webster said after hearing from food pantries that toiletries, including shampoo, razors and household cleaning products, were especially needed this year.
Jenny Robinson, the executive director of the Cortland Child Development Center, helped donate diapers and food.
“It’s literally my favorite thing the United Way does,” she said.
Robinson, who has volunteered Day of Caring events in previous years, said that while this year’s setup was different, she was glad it could still happen.
“If there’s a way to help five, 10, 15 families, that’s better than nothing,” she said.
“It’s a good idea to help out,” he said, not just during a pandemic, but any day.
The United Way for Cortland County will also work with the Food Bank of Central New York at pop-up food distribution sites around the county today and Friday, Webster said. Details, along with registration, which is required for people attending, is available on the United Way for Cortland County’s website at www.cortlandunitedway.org.
Webster said Wednesday’s event was another way the organization helps its fulfill its goal of supporting other organizations and groups that can help make people self-sufficient.
“This is going to be a critical year” for help, she said.