LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — Volunteers sat down with Newswatch 16 to talk about their mission to fight hunger and promote food dignity—in other words providing a friendly, comfortable atmosphere for those who need food from places like food pantries and food banks.
You may recognize some of the faces. Until this week, they worked at the Al Beech West Side food pantry in Kingston, which served as many as 2,600 people at the height of the pandemic.
"As of yesterday, the Al Beech Westside Food Pantry shut down, according to the volunteers that were there," explained former pantry president Clancy Harrison. "I resigned as the president after our board meeting on Tuesday, along with six other board members. I did that because my values were not aligned with the existing board and church leaders."
Those church leaders did not return Newswatch 16's phone call when asked about why the food pantry has been shut down, but volunteers say hundreds depend on it for their food weekly.
"Very busy, we have a lot of cars coming through," described volunteer Rena Briggs. "We have veterans, we have senior citizens, we have, there are walkers too, actually walkers, we have single parents, and it's a lot of people."
And volunteers provide more than just food. It comes with joy and a sense of community.
"And everybody there, we're listening to music, we're hanging out, we're handing everything to them, and it's not a matter of, 'Here, let's just throw this in your car.' It's more of, 'Hey, we want to help you. Here's some stuff for you,'" said TJ Belt, a volunteer who also makes balloon art for people at the distributions.
"We have a ton of people that are ready to continue our mission going forward and serving people," added Harrison. "Our problem is we don't have the location. We have the people. We have the resources; we need a location. Because there's too many people in Luzerne County that are struggling to find food, even at this time during the pandemic."
These volunteers are now working under the name: Food Dignity Movement. If you would like to help them with a location referral, you can visit the website by clicking here.