A few weeks later, the nation and most of the world were shut down. The coronavirus pandemic has closed schools and businesses, limited social interactions, and created a desperate situation for those who are immunocompromised or suddenly out of work.
But on Post 21, food from the car continued to be stored. On the last Saturday of every month since it opened–except for one month–the Legion Postal family has helped those facing food insecurity.
Assistant Tom Tanner said Post 21 was contacted by HEROES Care in St. Louis about hosting a pantry after another local one closed. According to its website, HEROES Care is “a collaborative effort between well-established NGOs designed to provide full and proactive support to members of all branches of the military and their families through pre-deployment, deployment, family reintegration and post-assignment.”
“The National Guard Armory[in Independence]was running the food pantry, but because of security restrictions and all that, they had to resign,” Post 21 assistant Tom Tanner said. “He (a representative for HEROES Care) came down and was talking about the store, and he said, ‘We’re really looking for a place to own it. ”
“And (then captain Mark Clark) and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is really a no-brainer. It’s just another way for us to help our veterans. So, we kind of took the project on us. It’s great, and it shows that we care about our family. “.
HEROES Care provides some funding for stocking. Post 21 also works with Kansas City-based Harvesters, and is a member of the Feeding America Network that provides food and related household products to more than 760 nonprofit agencies. Tanner said that in addition to community members who donated to the program, Post 21’s Legion family has also been very generous in providing financial assistance.
The pantry offers non-perishable times primarily due to storage limitations, though Tanner said on occasion they have fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some frozen items. And during last year’s holiday season, the publication was able to purchase turkeys and chickens for distribution.
Although store hours are technically from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on the last Saturday of the month, food assistance has not been canceled on those days. “If you get a family to come over and say, ‘I’m hungry. I need some help,’ I’ll open myself up and give them a box of food,” Tanner said. “We always have things ready to go to store next month.”
Only a month ago since the pantry opened, the Post hadn’t been able to handle it — when too many members of the Post’s Legion family contracted COVID-19. Tanner said the publication initially saw high demand during the start of the pandemic, but has now stabilized. Approximately 30 families show up each month to get items from the store.
“We try to connect and get more,” Tanner said. “We know there are other veterans who need help. And guys on active duty, they won’t admit they need help. They definitely won’t admit it in front of their peers.”
It only took the grand opening to see the pantry’s impact in the post, Tanner said. “One of the guys came over for our grand opening,” he said. “Very humble man. He doesn’t like asking for help, and he’s admitted it. But, he said, “I’m in a situation where I can’t go get food.” So, what we can give them, we know helps people.”