Volunteer organizations at MU continue mission after classes move to online format

Tiger Pantry and Mizzouthon continue their efforts to help the MU community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campus may be closed, but some MU volunteer organizations remain active.One of those organizations is Tiger Pantry, a food pantry that serves the MU community.

Due to the stay-at-home order, Tiger Pantry has gone from being open four days a week to two days, Sunday and Wednesday, and have implemented curbside pickup and delivery. Brady Peters, director of Tiger Pantry, explains that they have also put safety protocols in place for the volunteers.

“When someone comes into the pantry, they have to wash their hands, they have to put on a mask, and then they have to put on gloves,” Peters said. “Just to make sure that we're not contaminating the items that we're giving to users.”

For curbside pickup, users drive up in their car and open their trunk or back door. From there Tiger Pantry volunteers place the food items in their car.

Tiger Pantry’s delivery option is reserved for individuals at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as those over the age of 65 and those who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. The delivery option is also available for those who live in apartments and don’t have access to transportation because they relied on a shuttle service that is no longer running.

The organization is also helping MU Health Care workers.

“What we did is basically build a bridge,” Peters said. “Health staff could use the pantry before, it just wasn't really known by a lot of people. So [we are] just making sure they know that we [are] a resource they [can] use.”

Peters believes food pantries are important in times like these.

“There was never much of a thought of us closing because we knew of the importance,” Peters said. “Having these resources when people are really in need of it is vital … we know that even though there is a pandemic [and] we have stay-at-home orders, there are users that use us consistently and we need to support them.”

During the pandemic, Tiger Pantry has seen an increase in users. At the same time, they have seen a drop in the number of student volunteers, as many MU students have left Columbia.

Tiger Pantry Lead Ambassador Nicolette Leiby has noticed this drop, but it hasn’t stopped them. Members of Tiger Pantry’s executive board have stepped in to take on that role.

“They [have], by far, picked up the slack,” Leiby said.

Like Peters, Leiby also understands the importance of food pantries during this pandemic.

“The accessibility to food when people potentially don’t have any income right now is critical,” Leiby said. “There are so many people that aren’t making any money now that [may] not be able to spend as much on groceries as they had before.”

Another organization that understood the importance of continuing their mission after MU moved to remote learning is MizzouThon, the largest student-run philanthropy organization at MU. Celine Yn, the MizzouThon president for the 2019-2020 school year, wasn’t ready to stop everything when online classes started.

“When we were discussing what to do moving forward, we were definitely holding out hope,” Yn said. “A lot of our teams, a lot of our members [and] a lot of our miracle families, look forward to the main event each year. For our kiddos it’s kind of like a second Christmas or a second birthday.”

Every spring, MizzouThon throws their “main event,” a 13.1 hour dance marathon where people dance, play games and listen to the stories of families who are supported by the organization. All of the money raised goes to MU Health Care, specifically the MU Women's and Children's Hospital.

Due to the pandemic, the organization had to get creative in putting on the event. While they were forced to cancel the April 4 in-person event, MizzouThon kept some of their yearly traditions alive with social media.

“Our [social media] campaign revolved around our Miracle families,” Yn said. “We had a lot of them record videos. We really left it up to them. Some of them did want to focus on COVID-19 and then some of them just wanted to focus on their daily life.”

These videos were uploaded to MizzouThon’s social media. MizzouThon also announced the winners of their Miracle Cup.

While MizzouThon was able to keep parts of their event going during the epidemic, they have stopped planning events for this year and are currently making plans for next year. “A lot of hospitals are losing millions of dollars every single day,” Yn said. “I think, not only supporting them financially and giving them those resources and ability to support our community is important, but also [letting them know] that somebody has their backs.”

Edited by Lucy Caile | lcaile@themaneater.com

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