ENOLA, Pa. (WHTM) — The COVID-19 pandemic is changing daily life for everyone, which means organizations also have to change how they help others.
PantherPack celebrated its five-year anniversary Monday and for the first time, became a drive-thru food pantry of sorts, doling out food to more than 150 East Pennsboro Area School District families.
The program — open to East Pennsboro students on free or reduced lunch — usually sends home a backpack full of nutritional food, but due to the pandemic, Monday’s give was drive-thru only.
“[We’re making] sure that all of our families are fed here in East Pennsboro,” said volunteer, Mary Oliveira.
It was ‘giving on the move,’ with dozens of volunteers in front of East Pennsboro Elementary, loading cars with food that should last families all week and even into Easter Sunday.
“Baked goods, we have paper goods, non-perishable items, perishable items,” said Leanne Kalb, the founder of PantherPack. “We had churches donate all of their chocolate and Easter baskets for egg hunts that they’re not going to be able to do.”
The drive-thru service is new but what isn’t, is the help it provides for parents like single mom, Melissa Santos.
She’s been using PantherPack for about three years.
“Life just kinda gave me one giant speed bump, so she was a help when I had no job, no money [I] still get emotional about it,” Santos said. “[My] sons always eat, no matter what. A pandemic does not mean I don’t have to cook dinner!”
Each family was given Easter baskets and toys, a box of household essentials, bags of food, even an Easter ham, and for a lucky few, fresh-made pizza.
“I wanna be able to help out those who can’t work right now,” said volunteer, Dawn Knipe. “I teach in this district so it’s great to be able to help out in other ways besides in the classroom.”
That help was in no short supply with students even pitching in.
“Gonna show the world what PantherPack is all about, how we come together as a community and help our families,” Oliveira said.
“It’s tremendous, with a family of five, it’s helping out a lot,” Jeremy Fishel said.
“God sends people to you when you need them the most. That’s what Leanne was and still is,” Santos said.
“I can’t wait for the next five years and continue watching it grow,” Kalb said.
All of the food and items are donated, or bought with financial donations.
PantherPack is only available to certain students in the East Pennsboro Area School District.