Mercy Works volunteers loading boxes for COVID relief

Mercy Works Steps Up

Report to the Community: 2020

FROM PALLETS TO FOOD BOXES

Since Mercy Works began teaching technical skills like computer coding and robotics to teens in 1998, “food distribution” typically meant handing out snacks. But when COVID-19 closed schools, the Syracuse agency quickly pivoted to provide meals to thousands of children.

“There was a need and we jumped,” said Mark Haywood, former Mercy Works project leader and director of outreach and missions at Abundant Life Christian Center.

Within days of the shutdown, the Syracuse City School District was distributing bagged breakfasts and lunches. But with many people abruptly out of work, officials worried that kids would go hungry on weekends. Could Mercy Works provide groceries for families to take home on Fridays? And could the agency’s Clarence Jordan Vision Center on the Southside serve as the packaging and distribution site?

By then the reality of the virus was sinking in. People scrambled to rearrange their lives to meet stay-at-home orders. Stores ran short of supplies.

“There’s no chicken. There’s no bread. There’s no eggs,” Haywood said. “It’s not just that people were short of money. If they could get to the store, there wasn’t food.”

School district officials, hoping the crisis would be short, asked Mercy Works to donate food for 5,000 families for the two weeks beginning March 27 and April 3. With no supply chain or food distribution experience, Haywood and his colleagues took on the challenge.

The first week, Mercy Works spent $55,000 for 48 pallets of groceries to make 20- to 30-pound boxes. “We wanted it to be as healthy and fresh as possible,” Haywood said.

City schools couldn’t accommodate the huge food deliveries. After striking out a few times, an Oncenter staffer connected them with a property manager who donated an 80,000-square-foot warehouse on Thompson Road for the project.

Haywood worked the phones, looking for food. Syracuse Banana, stuck with thousands of dollars of produce when restaurants closed, donated everything in its warehouse. Donations from two families and Abundant Life covered expenses for the first two weeks, but it wasn’t enough to sustain the effort for the length of the crisis.

COVID-19 Community Fund support covered the cost of seven additional weeks of food. In those nine weeks, Mercy Works distributed 32,000 boxes across 30 sites.

Boxes typically contained at least 5 pounds of fruit, two loaves of bread, 2 pounds of pasta and at least a jar of spaghetti sauce. “It was what we could get at the best price and we thought kids would eat,” Haywood said.

Mercy Works staff, volunteers and community partners were happy to help. “This is our neighborhood,” Haywood said. “How could we not?”

Related Stories

What we are up to staff image
Topics April 23, 2024

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates

Learn about the expertise and passionate commitment amongst our team members as they drive positive ...

Publications April 22, 2024

Beyond Great Expectations: An Unexpected Gift with Unending Impact

The unexpected and unrestricted nature of Lucy’s bequest echoes the quiet yet profound impact individuals ...

Koerner Family outside
Publications April 22, 2024

The Koerner Family Funds: Like Parents, like Daughters

Education was a cornerstone for the Koerner kids, instilled by their successful and civic-minded parents. ...

Woman standing in office
Stories March 19, 2024

Giving Seamlessly: Leyla Morgillo

Giving has always been intrinsic to Leyla Morgillo's being whether it be through her time ...

hand holding growing money
Publications March 5, 2024

FAQS: A Snapshot of Clients’ Tax-Time Charitable Giving Questions

With the year is in full swing, now is a good time for advisors to ...

Men gardening
Blogs March 5, 2024

A safe space for Deaf New Americans to develop education, leadership, and life skills without limitation

Monu Chhetri, founder & CEO of Deaf New American Advocacy, Inc. explains how her participation ...

Group of people at event
Publications March 5, 2024

Collaborative Engagement with Nonprofit Partners

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Granting Matters

Woman sitting with young children
Publications March 5, 2024

Meet Our New President & CEO

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Cover Story

What we are up to staff image
Topics April 23, 2024

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates

Learn about the expertise and passionate commitment amongst our team members as they drive positive ...

Publications April 22, 2024

Beyond Great Expectations: An Unexpected Gift with Unending Impact

The unexpected and unrestricted nature of Lucy’s bequest echoes the quiet yet profound impact individuals ...

Koerner Family outside
Publications April 22, 2024

The Koerner Family Funds: Like Parents, like Daughters

Education was a cornerstone for the Koerner kids, instilled by their successful and civic-minded parents. ...

Woman standing in office
Stories March 19, 2024

Giving Seamlessly: Leyla Morgillo

Giving has always been intrinsic to Leyla Morgillo's being whether it be through her time ...

hand holding growing money
Publications March 5, 2024

FAQS: A Snapshot of Clients’ Tax-Time Charitable Giving Questions

With the year is in full swing, now is a good time for advisors to ...

Men gardening
Blogs March 5, 2024

A safe space for Deaf New Americans to develop education, leadership, and life skills without limitation

Monu Chhetri, founder & CEO of Deaf New American Advocacy, Inc. explains how her participation ...

Group of people at event
Publications March 5, 2024

Collaborative Engagement with Nonprofit Partners

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Granting Matters

Woman sitting with young children
Publications March 5, 2024

Meet Our New President & CEO

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Cover Story

View More