Irma Colon

On a Thursday morning at Union City Apostolic Church, Irma Colon is answering questions from a line of guests, and making sure her volunteers have everything they need for a busy day.

It’s time for their weekly food distribution, and the line is already down the block.

Colon runs the church’s food program, which is one of the Food Bank’s 208 partner agencies that provides free groceries to community members.

volunteers

Volunteer Nelly Martinez organizes donated clothes during a food distribution in Union City.

“I noticed an increasing amount of calls from people needing financial assistance,” said Colon, who started the pantry in 2007. “A lot of the people were calling the church—by the time they pay their rent and insurance, there’s no money left for food. We couldn’t help financially, but we could help with food.”

Meanwhile, a crew of volunteers hang everything from toddler t-shirts to suit pants on racks for an outdoor closet of donated free clothes.

“People have expressed we help make their paychecks stretch – they’re living check to check,” Colon said. “People are relying on food pantries like ours.”

On Friday evenings, the church also serves as a refuge for families who are homeless and living in their cars. In partnership with Union City, volunteers serve snacks and non-perishable groceries to approximately 25 cars full of people who are able to safely park in the church’s lot overnight, often while kids do homework or play on the church’s playground.

“It just takes one person in the difference, and make this community a better place.”

Once the line gets rolling, Colon starts with her next task: helping seniors carry heavy bags of groceries to their cars, and thanking them for coming.

That same Thursday, a similar scene takes place at 50 agencies across the county—and hundreds more throughout the week. Thanks to Food Bank supporters, and hundreds of agency staff and volunteers like Irma and her team, we will provide enough for 580,000 meals each week through programs like Union City’s.

It’s a lot of work to keep up a home-grown effort for over a decade, but what keeps Colon and her team dedicated? “To know that it just takes one person in the difference, and make this community a better place.”