In 2020, the Decorah Community Food Pantry hosted 4,964 client visits, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. These visits allowed the pantry to provide food for 14,062 children and adults.
“This accomplishment was made possible through the dedication of many people and organizations, including Director Carol Hemesath, Assistant Director Deb Tekippe, AmeriCorps volunteers, 60 other volunteers, board members, and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank,” says Board President Georgie Klevar. “We’re also grateful for the generosity of the larger community.”
When COVID-19 began, clients and many of the volunteers who were in a high-risk category could no longer enter the pantry. Younger volunteers recruited and led by board member Steven Zittergruen stepped in to prepare pre-selected bags of food. By late spring, volunteer Sherman Watts had developed an online ordering system with inventory listed in both English and Spanish.
Clients currently have three options for getting the food they need. They can shop online, at shop.decorahpantry.org, to select their items and arrange a pick-up time. If they can’t use the online system, they can call 563-202-0872 during the pantry’s daytime hours. An at-home volunteer will take these calls from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., five days a week, and assist with orders. Spanish speakers may call on Sundays from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. A client also can receive a pre-selected bag of groceries by simply coming to the pantry.
Many former volunteers have returned to doing tasks such as picking up “rescue” food from local stores, unloading the Food Bank truck, and packing online orders in groups of three to honor social distance.
“We are incredibly proud we continued operating and expanded our services during such a challenging time. So many new volunteers and donors stepped up alongside our longtime supporters. We are well-positioned to continue fulfilling our mission going forward,” stated Vice President Steven Zittergruen,