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

Woman holds baby up in the air
News Releases November 21, 2021

Community Foundation Receives Funding to Connect Residents to Expanded Tax Credits

The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit help families with necessary expenses like ...

Blogs November 18, 2021

‘Popping The Question’ About Charitable Giving: Madelyn H. Hornstein

Hear from Madelyn H. Hornstein, CEO, Dermody, Burke & Brown, CPAs, LLC, on how she ...

Steve and Elaine Jacobs stand in front of the CNY Philanthropy Center.
Stories November 15, 2021

Steve and Elaine Jacobs: Giving from the Heart

“I realized that the people in this community were the same people who helped me ...

Family members prepare food around a kitchen counter
News Releases November 6, 2021

Grant Assessing Lead Poisoning Solutions with Residents

Two groups will partner to lead ‘Kitchen Table Talks’ with families who have been identified ...

News Releases October 27, 2021

Community Foundation Announces New Black Equity & Excellence Fund Advisory Council Members

The Community Foundation launched the Black Equity & Excellence Fund in June of 2020 to ...

Blogs October 26, 2021

Reflections: Using Data to Improve Equity

Frank Ridzi, vice president, community investment, reflects on how nonprofits can measure how effectively their ...

Stories October 19, 2021

DAN FISHER: EVER-EVOLVING

Since completing his 35-year career at Welch Allyn, he has dedicated his time and resources ...

Stories October 19, 2021

Brady Market: Building Hope and Sustainability (through an Agency Fund)

“Day one you come in and you are paid even for your work on your ...

Group of individuals standing together
News Releases September 30, 2021

$248,000 in Grants Distributed to Black-Led Organizations to Support Black Business, Youth and Building Generational Wealth

The Community Foundation recently distributed a new round of grants from its Black Equity & ...

Woman holds baby up in the air
News Releases November 21, 2021

Community Foundation Receives Funding to Connect Residents to Expanded Tax Credits

The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit help families with necessary expenses like ...

Blogs November 18, 2021

‘Popping The Question’ About Charitable Giving: Madelyn H. Hornstein

Hear from Madelyn H. Hornstein, CEO, Dermody, Burke & Brown, CPAs, LLC, on how she ...

Steve and Elaine Jacobs stand in front of the CNY Philanthropy Center.
Stories November 15, 2021

Steve and Elaine Jacobs: Giving from the Heart

“I realized that the people in this community were the same people who helped me ...

Family members prepare food around a kitchen counter
News Releases November 6, 2021

Grant Assessing Lead Poisoning Solutions with Residents

Two groups will partner to lead ‘Kitchen Table Talks’ with families who have been identified ...

News Releases October 27, 2021

Community Foundation Announces New Black Equity & Excellence Fund Advisory Council Members

The Community Foundation launched the Black Equity & Excellence Fund in June of 2020 to ...

Blogs October 26, 2021

Reflections: Using Data to Improve Equity

Frank Ridzi, vice president, community investment, reflects on how nonprofits can measure how effectively their ...

Stories October 19, 2021

DAN FISHER: EVER-EVOLVING

Since completing his 35-year career at Welch Allyn, he has dedicated his time and resources ...

Stories October 19, 2021

Brady Market: Building Hope and Sustainability (through an Agency Fund)

“Day one you come in and you are paid even for your work on your ...

Group of individuals standing together
News Releases September 30, 2021

$248,000 in Grants Distributed to Black-Led Organizations to Support Black Business, Youth and Building Generational Wealth

The Community Foundation recently distributed a new round of grants from its Black Equity & ...

View More