SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The National Guard stepped in to help Ozarks Food Harvest when it couldn’t use volunteers due to COVID-19.

“When the pandemic first hit, like most food banks, we had to suspend operations out of concern for our volunteer force,” Bart Brown, president and CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest. ” Many of volunteers are retired folks. They fall into a higher risk category already, and at that time, we really didn’t know the things that we do know now about how transmission happens.”

Brown said they didn’t have anyone to pack boxes. Staffers were working hard, but there is only a limited number of them.

“The National Guard stepped in, and they became a lifesaver,” said Brown. “They completely filled the gap for us.”

The National Guard comes in five days a week to help pack boxes and distribute food to pantries and other agencies across the Ozarks.

“This is volunteer, we asked the unit to be able to put some of these guys on orders, and they volunteered to step up to the plate,” said Sergeant Scott Seib, with the National Guard.

Brown said there was a time where food was expensive and items were flying off the shelves, making it a challenge to provide food for those in need. Brown credits local, national and federal donors that came together and met the requirement.

“Having the National guard folks out here is really like having volunteers on steroids,” said Brown. “They are used to being very, very busy and they are very active. That couldn’t come at a better time for us.”

Sgt. Seib said The National Guard would continue to provide support as long as there is a need in Springfield.

“My guys are always ready to work hard,” said Seib. “They are motivated, and we are here to provide.”

To learn how you can help the Ozarks Food Harvest provide for those in need, click here.