– An UPDATE from Marjorie Vaneskahian Burr, ACO CEO –
Dear ACO Friends and Supporters,
When will this end?
I stood at the office window, watching it rain as cars waited in line for grocery distribution at the ACO Food Pantry on Tuesday of this week. It was raining hard, and I thought to myself “when will this end?” It wasn’t the rain I was thinking of, it was this crazy world we’ve been thrown into.
People from all across the county are coming for food. For many it is their first time ever to be in a “free food” line. One woman, with 3 small children in her car could barely talk to us when she pulled up because she was crying so hard. I wasn’t sure whether it was tears of embarrassment or tears of joy to receive the food. But our staff made her feel welcomed and cared for. Through the tears there was a smile and a mouthed “thank you” as she pulled away.
Just a few months ago, ACO was operating so differently. Oh, we still had families in crisis in our lobby- late on their rent or in need of help paying the current’s month gas bill. Our pantry stayed busy with appointments for families coming in to “shop” for free groceries each week. But we were looking ahead with so much hope for 2020, as our programs got off the ground to get more GED program graduates and “Workforce Bootcamps” to help those in need of better paying jobs. Now, just weeks later there are thousands without jobs at all. There is a new level of stress that threatens not only our lifestyles but our lives!
I don’t know when it will end. But I will tell you what I hope never does end…the love and kindness that lives in this community- all throughout Collin County. There is a caring spirit for our neighbors and a generosity to share with those in need. Thank you for reading my messages and our updates. You continue to give financial gifts, food, support and compassion. While this virus has brought about the worst in the world, it has also brought forth the best in each other. I know that the future will bring a vaccine and the fear of COVID-19 will end. But the good that it created… I hope will stay with us all.
In the meantime, ACO still needs you. We still need your kindness and your generosity. Please keep the donations coming. Please continue to like and share our posts on Facebook and forward our emails to your friends. Please remember our staff in your thoughts as they are on the front lines with all caregivers.
Our staff are back to work this month full-time, with very few still working from home. We are working in shifts for distancing purposes, and we’ve ramped up our procedures for cleaning, wearing masks and altering our workplaces for more protection. The ACO Food Pantry will continue curbside food distribution for the time being. We are excited to begin welcoming back our volunteers. This NEW NORMAL will not end either. We will continue to serve our community with caution and the utmost safety for all.
ACO’s #1 focus is still on emergency services. Our team is spending all of their time on assistance with rent, utilities and food. And while we are looking forward to grants coming from new government funding opportunities to help with these necessities, ACO still needs your help with our operational costs. We still have to keep our trucks running, our freezers cooling, our supplies purchased, etc. Much of our everyday operational expenses have been covered in the past with our income from the resale stores. Currently our stores are still closed. We hope to slowly open again over the summer. However, our warehouse space is filled with much needed food supplies, so space for collecting household donations and sorting/pricing items is very limited. In fact, our warehouse is filled to capacity, and with the stores closed we have no room for more donations.
We were so excited to reopen the Processing Center and accept used clothing and household donations last Saturday. To say you overwhelmed us with your generosity is an understatement! In the first hour we saw 70 cars. That is our usual number on any given “regular” day. By the end of the day, 372 cars have driven through and dropped off donations. A new record number of donations in one day. Our warehouse is full!
I am sorry to announce that we CANNOT RE-OPEN DONATION DROP OFF AGAIN until we have processed what we have and made room for more. We apologize for the inconvenience. Our re-cyclers are also closed, and until our stores reopen we cannot move the donations we currently have. We are using our warehouse to process food donations which we desperately need to keep going! We are getting our summer food bags for local children ready to go out. In the meantime, hold on to items that you can. If you cannot, please donate to other charities in our community. We all need your support. And if you have any free extra warehouse space…give me a call!
One more thing…and perhaps this most important thing! THANK YOU!!! Oh my, your response to our Summer Kids Food Drive on May 2 was amazing. We collected more than 12,000 lbs of food and supplies thanks to the hundreds of cars that drove through and dropped off groceries! 75 of those cars were from the Lamborghini Club who made a 2nd appearance in Allen to support ACO. It was a fun and incredible day, but most of all it helped to build our supplies of kid-friendly foods to feed hungry Collin County kids this summer. Please know how much your time and your gifts are appreciated.
Please stay safe, stay home, and stay kind!
Many, many thanks,