Local Institutions Collaborate to Support Those on the Frontlines of the Pandemic

We’ll get through this together. We’ll get through this together. We’ll get through this together.

In the month plus since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States, this five word phrase has become, for many, a mantra of hope. Through electronic conversation, social media posts, and face-to-face interactions with our shelter-in-place-mates, we have communicated this phrase to one another as a way to reinforce our belief in a better tomorrow, and the power of our collaborative community to bring that better tomorrow to fruition. 

While a fervent philosophical commitment to this mantra of the common good is a necessary first step toward improving society’s reality, this belief is woefully insufficient without action. Recently, a collaboration involving individuals from business, the public sector, and faith based institutions that began with a simple thank you, came to exemplify how our local community put faith into action to support those on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. 

On April 8th, in the spirit of gratitude and partnership, Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School’s Director of Institutional Advancement, Duke Doblick, wrote an email to benefactors that contribute to the school through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program to thank them for their donation. 

The same day, one of these benefactors replied to Mr. Doblick asking if the school could use a donation of food. While the school had no use for a food donation under the current circumstances, a conversation began on how to leverage this donation for the benefit of the community. “I was incredibly moved by this school partner’s willingness to do his part to impact the immediate needs in our South Philadelphia community,” Mr. Doblick said, “and assured him that Neumann Goretti would do everything we could to help facilitate his generosity.”

The benefactor, who requested to remain anonymous, had the following to say about the circumstances involving the donation, “Our firm is in the vending business. Demand decreased sharply when the stay-at-home orders were issued and I knew we’d have food going to waste as a result. We are based in Bucks County and are supporting food access programs there as well. We love working with the Neumann-Goretti team and wanted to give back to South Philadelphia. Joe McColgan, the school President, radiates sincere care for others. I knew the food would go to a worthy cause if I connected with Joe and the other folks at Neumann-Goretti.” 

With the school building closed and students being instructed remotely, Mr. Doblick reached out to Mr. McColgan, who then suggested contacting another Joe, Neumann-Goretti board member and East Passyunk Community Center Advisory Board President, Joseph F. Marino, to learn if the community center would be able to use the donation. The Center, located next to the school, was already partnering with Philabundance to increase food access in the community and consequently did not have an immediate need for the donation. 

Nevertheless, Joe Marino had a suggestion for who to contact next. Another Joe! Marino contacted Pastor Joe Melloni from First Assembly Church to find out if the Philadelphia Access Center could make use of the donation. 

A ministry of First Assembly Church, one short block from Neumann Goretti, the stated mission of the Philadelphia Access Center is, “Revealing Christ through Compassionate Service.” Amidst the crisis, much of this service performed by the Philadelphia Access Center has been directed toward addressing the nutritional needs of those on the frontlines of the pandemic and local families struggling with food insecurity. 

“The Access Center has been packaging lunches for healthcare workers at Methodist Hospital, police officers, and firefighters,” explained Pastor Joe Melloni. “This donation supported that effort and supplemented the lunches.” 

All told, 256 Smucker’s Uncrustables® peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 252 bags of Herr’s® potato chips, and 264 Deer Park® Sport bottles of water were distributed to COVID-19 first responders as a result of the benefactor’s donation and the collaboration that occurred between Neumann-Goretti High School, the East Passyunk Community Center, and the Philadelphia Access Center. And, amazingly, this all took place and was planned by phone, email, and text in a few short hours!

While the impact of this collaboration may seem small when one looks at the daunting adversities precipitated by the virus, this story illustrates a modern application of the adage, often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” If we commit to living out this maxim in the days and months ahead, there is no doubt…we’ll get through this, together!