SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Area non-profits will lose some crucial help at the end of the month.
Unless plans change, the Missouri National Guard will be leaving town after being here since April of 2020.
Ozarks Food Harvest says not having them around will impact its need for volunteers.
Around April 2020, OFH temporarily shut down its volunteer program since most people in it are seniors like Melody Pierson who has volunteered for 10 years at OFH.
“Before I retired I was a teacher,” Pierson said. “I had students who didn’t have food at times and so I was committed to that idea of feeding people who are in need.”
But for about a year she couldn’t help sort food at the warehouse.
Melody: “That felt horrible because I really wanted to be here,” Pierson said. “It was very difficult. I missed it all the time.”
Thankfully, OFH’s volunteer program returned a couple of weeks ago.
“The night before I came it was kind of like Christmas Eve night,” Pierson said. “You’re like ‘I’m so excited. I’m so excited.'”
The food bank will soon need more people like Pierson, as Jordan Browning says the Missouri National Guard is getting reassigned on June 28.
Jordan Browning, Public Information Officer, Ozarks Food Harvest: “It’s gonna leave a massive gap in our volunteer program because they’ve been taking up more than half of our volunteer projects for the past year,” said Browning the Public Information Officer for OFH.
Around 30 to 45 troops have helped sort more than 98,000 pounds of food every week.
“The National Guard has been really key,” Browning said. “So, we’re really going to need help from the community. So many of our projects are handled by volunteers, For the packing of our weekend backpack program or our senior box programs.”
The National Guard also helped distribute food at Crosslines last October then one food pantry team member tested positive for COVID-19.
“Each distribution served between 150 and 200 families, so definitely was a help during those two weeks that we had to be closed,” Wes Buchholz the director of Crosslines said. “We’re grateful for the National Guard coming in and helping our clients out.”
Crosslines only takes online and phone orders, but Buchholz says his group could still use more help.
“In our warehouse. We need help loading cars at the side entrance as we’re doing our drive-thru distributions. And then we also run a couple of senior programs,” Buchholz said.
“I would say it’s worth every minute that you give it because it helps somebody else, but it also is very reinforcing for the individual,” Pierson said. “You have a sense that you’re accomplishing something with other people.”