Written by Hsinyi Yu
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
As the end of the year approached and the temperature dropped to below freezing, a snowstorm threatened the East Coast. Soon, more than 10 inches of snow had fallen on several areas across New Jersey. The city of Cedar Grove, where Tzu Chi’s Mid-Atlantic Regional branch is located, was blanketed in nearly eight inches of snow right before their final distribution of the winter season. Fortunately, a snow removal company helped clear the snow in the parking lot so community residents could safely drive through to pick up their groceries.
The distribution took place on Friday, December 18th, with volunteers taking careful preventive measures during the pandemic to keep themselves warm and healthy. Since Christmas and New Year in 2020 were both also on Fridays, the food pantry would be closed for two weeks. To help ensure local residents would have enough food during this time, volunteers distributed twice as many groceries.
On the day before the snowstorm was predicted to hit New Jersey, volunteers mobilized to begin preparations on December 15th, and pre-packed 325 bags of dry goods. On the morning of December 18th, the food bank delivered 8,334 pounds of fresh food and 2,743 pounds of dry goods. Volunteers thoughtfully arranged the dry goods, vegetables, and fruits to make the distribution process as smooth and efficient as possible.
Outdoor heating units helped keep volunteers warm in the chill temperatures, as did care for their community. “Although it is cold, the heat from the unit and the hot packs kept them warm,” explained a Tzu Chi volunteer named Nancy To. “I am grateful to the team for their love and care. In addition to keeping our body warm, we felt the warmth inside too.”
In the parking lot, cars waited patiently in line. Following volunteers’ guidance, cars drove slowly into the distribution area, where volunteers registered their numbers and notified them of the next distribution date. Then, volunteers loaded the bread, dry goods, fruits, and vegetables into their vehicles. This drive-through distribution method was implemented during the pandemic to help uphold the community’s wellness and practice crucial social distancing precautions. While volunteers may have faced some challenges with the increased weight of the foods distributed, they were pleased to see the families go home with a fully loaded car.
With Tzu Chi volunteers all geared up, it was difficult to tell who was who, but moving moments abound when working together as a team.
The energy shown by volunteers warmed care recipients as well. Ursina and Bob, a couple who were part of the food pantry program, even delivered a card to the volunteers to wish them a happy holiday. Inside the red envelope was a donation expressing their gratitude for Tzu Chi’s love and hopes of giving back to others.
A total of 26 volunteers participated in the event. Because of everyone’s love and dedication, 290 households benefited from this distribution.