Urban League, church, munis partner to feed shut-in North County residents in response to COVID-19

Robert Cotton, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis staff member, unloaded crates of milk to be given out with food to North County residents at St. Peter's United Church of Christ.

Photo courtesy of Shirley Emerson

Officials from eight North County municipalities are working with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Peter's United Church of Christ, community leaders and residents to provide free groceries to individuals – especially those who are low-income, sick and shut-in – during the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Peter's – under the leadership of Senior Pastor Rev. Patrick Chandler, with the help of Associate Pastor Josh Privitt – provided its facility as a food distribution center. The Urban League delivered to the church several huge truckloads of nutritional food staples comprised of fruits, vegetables, milk and bread.  

Municipal officials from Bellefontaine Neighbors, Moline Acres, Dellwood, Berkeley, Northwoods, Cool Valley, Ferguson and Jennings partnered in the effort.

Berkeley Mayor Theodore “Ted” Hoskins, Bellefontaine Neighbors Mayor Tommie Pearson Sr., and Moline Acres Mayor Michelle DeShay worked side-by-side with a volunteer corps of workers who donated their time and efforts to load cars and trucks from the represented cities. The food was transported to the different areas, where it was given out to residents. 

Meanwhile, Ferguson Council Member Fran Griffin coordinated the leadership of St. Peter’s Church along with the citizens of Ferguson, as she facilitated food distribution for mobile Ferguson residents who could drive by the church to pick up bags of groceries. As they assembled bags of groceries to be handed out, neighborhood leader Donald Stevens, along with food advocate and chef Cathy Daniels, said they experienced warm feelings generated from living in a community where, in the midst of a crisis, neighbors reach out to each other and serve each other.

Pastor Jose Aguayo, of Adopt a Block, worked with Ferguson Council Member Ella Jones to help apartment dwellers, such as those in Oakmont Apartments, address mounting needs regarding access to food. Pastor Aguayo sent an Oakmont representative to pick up groceries from St. Peter’s, bring them back to the complex, and subsequently make them available for families residing there.   

The community service idea was sparked by a conversation between Jones and Griffin, who represent Ferguson’s Wards 1 and 3, respectively. They were discussing food policy and keeping neighbors healthy, especially senior citizens, during the pandemic.

Jones made a phone call, which stirred a wave of activity, ultimately culminating in a number of municipalities, agencies, community leaders and citizens working together to feed their neighbors experiencing curtailed access to healthy foods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones reached out to Paula E.W. Carey-Moore, director of Housing for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, who in turn went to the organization’s President and CEO Michael McMillan, who was happy to work on a coordinated food project in North St. Louis County. 

“We’re always proud to partner with a variety of elected officials, churches and community members to provide food, toiletries and other resources during this pandemic,” McMillan told The American.

“We’re partnering with a number of different support efforts like this, on top of conducting our own daily work with our food pantry and rental and utility assistance. We’re doing all we can with the community so we can get through this together.”

After receiving an encouraging response from the Urban League, Jones corralled a cadre of municipal leaders and other partners from North County to execute this mission.

“The local Urban League is always addressing critical needs of the people in the St. Louis region,” Jones said. “The league never hesitates to answer the call of help from various local municipalities. The food project was no exception.”

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