It started small. A group of 10 or 12 volunteers from Olyphant, working to deliver free bags of food to residents of local senior living centers.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the group has grown quickly, keeping pace with donations to help other needy families in the Valley.
By the third and fourth weeks, residents from nearby Dickson City and Throop joined the team of volunteers, with requests to supply their communities with essential goods. By the end of April, the team donated food to 500 families.
Each family receives four bags of essential food items, including canned goods, meat, milk and produce. With a combined 78,000 residents living under the poverty line in Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties, a call for community volunteerism has never been more necessary.
“I enjoy the camaraderie here,” said Olyphant councilwoman Beth Frushon. “People banding together from different towns for no other reason than to help their communities. That doesn’t happen very often.”
The group calls themselves Valley Village of Volunteers. The list of volunteers include first responders, educators, city officials and other members of the Midvalley community.
The dedicated volunteers include Frushon, Olyphant Police Sgt. Lewis Kline, Dickson City council president and Mid Valley Secondary principal Jeffrey Kovaleski, Throop councilwoman Charlene Tomasovitch, Dickson City council vice president Bob Hall and Olyphant mayor John Sedlak.
“It warms my heart to see all the volunteers coming together for the singular purpose of helping others,” said Kovaleski. “There are a lot of people in our community who care for their fellow neighbors and there are a lot of people who are thankful for our help.”
Every Wednesday at 8 a.m., volunteers drive to the food donation sites, traveling from Nanticoke to Scranton and back to Olyphant Ambulance and Rescue Squad at 2 p.m. When the food donations trucks arrive at Olyphant Ambulance and Rescue Squad, it’s all hands on deck to sort, bag and deliver groceries to local families in need. Last week, the group fed 165 families.
“One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is finding enough volunteers to fill these large orders,” said Frushon. “Now that we have started a Facebook page, more people are asking to join us. “
Food supplies are donated by Eastern Produce, Pittston; Friends of the Poor, Scranton; Murazzi Meats, Kingston; Paper and Supply Scranton, Salvation Army and Weinberg Food Bank, Pittston.
Equipment and vehicles are donated by Brick City, Olyphant; Caines Plumbing & Heating, Olyphant; Dickson City Police Department, NEPA Towing, Peckville; Olyphant Ambulance, and Rescue Squad, Olyphant Police Department, Orr Industries, Throop; P&W Washo, Olyphant; Pennsylvania Ambulance, Scranton and Pete’s Garage, Dunmore.
Freezer space is donated by Luigi’s Pizza, Olyphant; Convenient Market, Olyphant and Regal Room, Olyphant.
According to Frushon, Olyphant Ambulance and Rescue Squad’s allowing the volunteers to use its large hall space helped make the campaign possible.
Valley Village of Volunteers are in need of large trucks for transporting pallets of donated foods and large vehicles for home deliveries. New volunteers are encouraged to join. In lieu of delivery, families in need can also pick up donated food items on Wednesday by calling ahead. For more information on how to volunteer or receive food donations, visit Valley Village Volunteers Facebook page.