KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s a well-oiled machine that has been in overdrive since early March when everyone’s lives began to change.
Cross Lines Community Outreach has worked with Harvesters for years, but its mobile-delivery program didn’t start the coronavirus pandemic interrupted daily life.
“We see, especially with the pandemic right now, how many families are in need and they are starving,” volunteer Vanessa Camacho-Zepeda said. “It just, it hit us all.”
Harvesters delivers the food to Cross Lines where volunteers sift, sort and pack it up before more volunteers deliver that food to those who are unable to leave their homes, like Maria Cortez.
“I called the church where we go and I said, 'We need prayer because everybody going to be sick,' and, yes, everybody got it,” said Maria Cortez, shortly before her biggest fear came true.
Maria, her husband, daughter and two grandchildren, who all live in the same home, tested positive for COVID-19.
“When the kids ask, we need to eat and I said, 'OK, what do you want to eat?' We cannot go out and buy or nothing," Cortez said. "Especially when you don’t have money and bills on top of it, it’s hard."
By the grace of God, Cortez said, volunteers stepped in at a time when her family had no way of leaving to get food and no way of going to work to pay for it.
Cortez recalled the emotional experience when first-time volunteer, Camacho-Zepeda, showed up with food. It's something that still brings them both to tears.
“Oh my God, everybody was crying,” Cortez said.
The Cortez’s hardship of not having the means to get or pay for food is only a glimpse into what food insecurity – not knowing where the next meal will come from – feels like.
Hundreds of people in the Kansas City metro still are in that position, which is why Camacho-Zepeda continues to volunteer, using her own gas and time to quite literally meet them where they are.
“It was happiness," Cortez said, wiping tears from her eyes. "Everybody was, 'Ohhh my god. We got somebody to take care of us, to look for us.'”
Camacho-Zepeda said the "most warming touch" of volunteering is seeing reactions from the children.
“It’s like Christmas for them and it’s sad because it shouldn’t be that way,“ she said.
More information on how to volunteer with Harvesters and Cross Lines Community Outreach can be found online.
Since 2012, 41 Action News has hosted the Fill the Fridge to benefit Harvesters Community Food Network. Donations can be made online between Sept. 8 and 12, as well as at various locations throughout the Kansas City metro.