When Melanie Rogers gets caught up in the emotion of it all and is tempted to high-five one of her food drive volunteers or donors, she quickly stops herself.
“We are following strict COVID-19 protocols,” she says. “So we are air-fiving instead.”
The food drive Rogers and other students in Lambton College’s Social Service Worker program have organized is unique in these social-isolated times.
All the volunteers are wearing gloves and using plenty of hand sanitizer. They work in teams only if they are socially isolating together already. And they are overwhelmed by the warmth and encouragement of local residents waving and smiling from their front windows.
In two days, on Thursday and Friday of this week, about 50 volunteers fanned out across most of Sarnia and Point Edward and were rewarded with groceries that filled large vans and trucks for the Inn of the Good Shepherd.
They are continuing today (Saturday) to collect groceries from front porches of Bright’s Grove, Wyoming, Corunna, Petrolia and Aamjiwnaang.
Donors are asked to leave their donations on their front porch and turn the porch light on so they know to stop at your house.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Sarnia-Lambton for helping the Inn,” said Rogers who regularly volunteers there.
When she realized the shelves were only half as full as usual last week, she knew she wanted to find a solution.
The annual Cyclone Aid food drive at St Patrick’s High School and CANstruction at Lambton Mall are two of the food bank’s biggest events and both are cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On top of that, there’s going to be a lot more unemployed people who will need to use the Inn’s food bank now,” Rogers said.
“I really feel the Inn is a cornerstone of our community, especially at a time like this.”
Other food banks, including one at Lambton College and others in the county, benefit from Inn of the Good Shepherd food donations as well, she said.
Within days, Rogers put together The Drive By Food Drive primarily relying on Facebook and other social media to recruit volunteers. Her classmates were the first ones to sign up, and other local residents wanting to help have offered to pick up grocery donations too.
“We’ve had just an incredible response,” Rogers said. “This has created such a sense of community. I don’t think anyone thought it would be this good.”
In Point Edward, Lindsay Kirkland has picked up many of the donations. In one day she filled her van with groceries three times and took cheques worth $520 to the Inn.
“It makes me so happy to see everyone supporting this,” she said. “It’s been amazing.
“Mel is an incredible human being. When she gets an idea, she runs with it. Just look at the success of this.”
Donations for The Drive by Food Drive will be accepted beyond Saturday. Food can be dropped off at the Inn on John Street or monetary donations can be made online at https://www.theinnsarnia.ca/donate/.