By Michael J. Billoni
Maj. Celestin Nkounkon of the Salvation Army of the Tonawandas and a member of the Rotary Club of Grand Island is in desperate need of nonperishable food items and cash donations to assist in what has become an extremely busy drive-thru food pantry during this COVID-19 pandemic.
With the assistance of a Rotary grant, the major has set up a tent outside the Tonawanda Corps Community Center at 46 Broad St., in the City of Tonawanda, for food distribution to families in need each weekday morning. Normally, the food pantry serves families in the Tonawandas and Grand Island but, since this pandemic began in March, it is seeing families from Niagara County and Amherst.
Volunteers saw 542 first-time families in April compared to 235 in March and 100 in February. In April, they distributed 3,492 grocery bags of food, compared with 2,556 in March.
“Many new families have been struggling. Some are still waiting for unemployment to kick in or food stamps to be approved. But we are here to help however we can by the grace of God, because that is our mission at the Salvation Army,” Nkounkon said. “Whatever food we do not receive from the Food Bank, we purchase at local retail stores. So far, the Lord has been providing us with the means necessary to carry on. We really could not do this without the public support, so we thank those who have donated to us so very much.”
Donations of nonperishable food items, such as cans of vegetables, pasta sauce and jelly, can be dropped off at the center on Broad Street. Checks can be made out to The Salvation Army and sent to the same address.
Rotary Club of Grand Island President-Elect Sherry Miller helps to sort food for distribution.