A Community Collaboration during the Pandemic: St. Louis, MO
Twelve volunteers from the Sathya Sai Center of St. Louis, along with volunteers from the Art of Living, St. Louis, and the Sikhs of St. Louis have been actively involved every week in preparing and delivering of meals to the needy. This is the first time the groups have collaborated on a community project.
It began in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit and there was an increased food scarcity due to loss of jobs. A Sai Center member who also visits the Gurudwara (the Sikhs’ place of worship) connected the two groups. Members of the Sikh community were already actively involved in large-scale feeding of the needy and welcomed the participation of Sai Center members in the cooking and delivering of food. Initially, five Sai volunteers got involved.
Currently, a total of 65 volunteers from the three organizations provide fresh vegetarian meals, three to four times a week. For more than five months now, the volunteers have distributed up to 1000 meals every week. Initially, they worked in the Gurudwara Kitchen. A team of not more than six to seven volunteers each time were responsible for chopping vegetables, cooking, packing and delivering food. Once social distancing practices were in place, volunteers began to cook meals at home, then delivered the food to a pickup point from where a delivery team took over.
A Sai volunteer describes, “The team has organized itself efficiently with individuals delegated to various tasks such as buying wholesale groceries, distributing groceries to people willing to cook, planning the menu, sending timely reminders, arranging pickup of the food and distributing food to the needy and the frontline workers. They also go to great lengths to ensure that every volunteer gets an opportunity to help.”
Another Sai volunteer commented, “The Sikhs of St. Louis started off an initiative that is an example of selfless service. The service has become an amazing example of solidarity of diverse spiritual groups coming together in the presence of a common challenge – hunger, in the times of COVID-19. The feeling of being able to help and working with such a committed and organized group has given me a sense of deep fulfillment.”
Finally, a participant, grateful for the opportunity to serve, reflected, “I truly see God’s hands working through this committed group of people doing selfless service with the sole intention of serving the needy during this pandemic. The coordinating team works cohesively with a determination to make sure everything goes smoothly in the preparation of these large quantities of food items. I am truly grateful and humbled to play a small role in this noble cause. This act of selfless service manifests the true love and affection we have for each other irrespective of caste, creed or religion. It also endorses the unity of our country despite its varied diversity.”