Fill a Bag, Feed a Family reinvents Aurora food drive during pandemic

Bob Gaetjens
Record-Courier

In the face of unprecedented need, Aurora’s largest food drive, Fill a Bag, Feed a Family, has had to reinvent itself to conduct a food drive safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“For the past six years, leading up to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, this drive provided enough food to meet the needs of the Volunteers of America Aurora Food Pantry for all the summer months and sometimes well into the fall,” said organizer Bruce Harris. “Last year, the pandemic changed everything. The normal practice of dropping off empty bags on a Saturday and picking them up a week later and then inspecting, sorting and storing them that same day, became impossible to do.”

During the past year, more families than ever have found themselves in need, which has made Fill a Bag, Feed a Family and the Aurora Food Pantry and Aurora Community Relief Fund even more critical.

Since October, organizers have been trying to find ways to limit the number of volunteers in a work area, meet social distancing guidelines,identify locations for sorting and storage, process 20,000 food items, meet the needs to the city’s two food agencies and share food and money donations.

Aurora Community Chapel is donating space in its gym  to do initial sorting and temporary storage. 

Still, a location to do the final sort and storing was needed.

Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin joined the effort to find a location.  Between her efforts and that of the leadership team, they found a site. Surge Industrial on Lena Drive blocked off enough space to enable the last two steps — sorting and storage. 

"Surge Industrial became the hero of the day when they gave final approval to use their warehouse," said Harris.

Several community churches offered to donate space to roll 6,000 bags in which food is collected. Normally, this activity takes place during a “bag-rolling party” at Christ Community Chapel, but COVID-19 group size limits prevent that from happening this year.

Fill a Bag, Feed a Family organizers are seeking volunteers to help on the mornings of May 1, May 8 or May 15. Those hoping to help can register for time slots online at https://www.myfillabag.org/aurora/2021 or email Harris at f2s.bruceh@gmail.com for more information.

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at bgaetjens@recordpub.com and @bobgaetjens_rc.