When Christine Pudelko learned she would be furloughed from her job for two weeks in April 2020, she couldn’t sit idly by when people needed help.
She contacted Hillside Food Outreach because she and her daughter, Mackenzie, had packed food for them in the past. She thought demand for food deliveries from Hillside might increase because of quarantines and a need for people with underlying conditions to stay home. Hillside home delivers free, healthy food to people who cannot get to food banks or the grocery store.
Christine was right about the demand. When she reached out, she learned that United Way of Western Connecticut had provided a dedicated staff member, Stacy Schulman, to help Hillside coordinate volunteers to deliver food. Stacy put Christine to work right away, providing her with information about how to deliver food in a safe way for herself and the recipients. Eventually, when she felt safe, her children joined her in volunteering.
Stacy coordinated more than 45 volunteers for Hillside during the height of the pandemic, and United Way provided $9,000 in funding to help the organization purchase food to meet increased need.
“That first week, we had two or three deliveries every day,” Christine said. Even after she went back to work, she decided she could fit in two deliveries every day, and the kids made their school schedules work to participate.
Christine received an email each day from Stacy with information about her daily deliveries. Then she and her kids would jump into action, with her son RJ getting the bags ready and she and Mackenzie gathering the food from Hillside’s shelves, refrigerators, and freezers.
“We take no pleasure from the need, but we feel great satisfaction with the opportunity United Way and Hillside have given us to help,” she said. “Every phone call we made to recipients to let them know their food was at the door provided us with direct thank you’s and gratitude for our help. We treasured those words and moments.”
One day, when the kids noticed that the shelves at Hillside were getting bare, Mackenzie said “We have to go to the grocery store ourselves.” When RJ opened the refrigerator and it was empty, he said “We are going to shop for more, right?”
“I was so proud of my kids that day,” Christine said. “They clearly understood what we have been doing and how important it is for the people we do it for.”
Christine, her kids, and her husband also volunteered at United Way’s food drive at the Danbury Fair Mall on August 7 and 8.
“Having all four of us together and doing something to directly help our community is amazing,” she said.