CLEVELAND — One year ago, our world changed when Ohio’s stay-at-home order took effect.
The way we worked, learned and lived wasn’t the same. And, for too many of us, neither was our ability to put food on the table.
Without the support of local food pantries, so many Northeast Ohioans would go hungry.
Like the May Dugan Center on Cleveland's west side. It has been a comfort to a record number of people during the pandemic.
May Dugan has the second-largest food distribution in our region, outside of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s event at the city’s Muni lot.
Hugh Hathway is one of our neighbors in need. He says he would be lost without the center.
His red truck, one of the hundreds of vehicles lined up for blocks, waiting to receive free food on a Wednesday morning.
“Without them, a lot of people would be hurting," said Hugh.
Hugh is still hurting from losing his job during the pandemic.
“I just hope we can all get back to normal soon," he said.
This week, the center marks 500,000 meals served since the stay-at-home order took effect in Ohio one year ago. It is a stunning 200% increase from pre-pandemic times.
Rick Kemm, CEO of May Dugan, says they wouldn’t be able to sustain this pace without the support of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
He says May Dugan’s food distribution has transformed from what was a one-day event, once a month to now a three-day event, twice a month serving upwards of 800 families every time.
They offer the drive-through event on one day. A walk-in distribution, with an appointment, the next day. And, home deliveries on the third day.
Kemm says about 60% of the people who have come to May Dugan are new clients, and he says they’re still seeing a lot of new faces.
“People who lost their jobs, people who were furloughed, and a lot of new people who heard about May Dugan from media coverage and word of mouth,” he said.
He says one of the best things they're seeing are all the new volunteers, who outnumber staff on distribution days.
"That is one of the things I am most grateful for and that has resonated with me,” he said. “We've had an outpouring of volunteers who live in the neighborhood, primarily, who’ve seen the cars lined up for blocks and contact the front desk and ask how they can help.”
Humbled by her good fortune during the pandemic, volunteer Trish Sweeney-Martin says she had to give back and was stunned by the need.
“You hear about it, but until you see it firsthand you don’t understand it,” she said. “I wanted to help out the people who needed the help."
Five hundred thousand meals and counting, while counting down to like Hathway said: better days ahead.
"I'm hoping that we'll see things improve over the next several months, but we're still prepared to be here to help people that need food," said Kemm.
“God bless,” waved Hugh as he exited the parking lot with his food donation.
Right now, the May Dugan Center is working to make improvements to its building that is 50 years old.
Kemm says the pandemic has made it clear that the improvements are necessary to continue meeting the community's needs.
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