Written by: Charles Klangtamniem, Volunteer Operations Manager
Date: Monday, May 4, 2020
While driving eastbound on Sahara Avenue, passing Decatur Boulevard, then Arville Street and Valley View Boulevard, I see countless cars lined up, waiting to receive food at the Palace Station parking lot, one of our larger emergency food distribution sites. Although we do not start distributing for another three hours, families have been waiting inside their vehicles since 5 a.m.
My job starts when the Three Square delivery truck arrives. When the back door of the truck rolls up on this particular day, I scan the food loaded inside: frozen chicken, cauliflower fries, baby carrots, apples, etc. After cataloging how many pallets of food we have and calculating how we can ration it, I know we have enough food for about 900 cars, so I divide the food up into three different lanes to accelerate the distribution process.
As volunteers arrive, they start by washing their hands at our portable hand washing station, then glove up and start to pack food into bags–this process makes it easier to place food into car trunks. We assign volunteers four to a station in adherence with social distancing guidelines. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Nevada Highway Patrol are on hand to direct traffic. Tensions are always high at these distributions, so the officers’ presence is reassuring to everyone.
Before commencing the distribution, multiple volunteers make their way down the line of cars to collect data for reporting purposes. Meanwhile, as we finish packing the food, everyone prepares mentally and physically to rock-and-roll. The first car pulls up and the driver opens their trunk. While the runner at the first station places the food inside, another volunteer directs the driver to move forward to the next station. This process is repeated across the other two lanes as cars begin pulling into multiple lanes at a time. Things are moving along until someone’s car overheats and the radiator explodes. A few of us push the car to the side, fill the trunk with food, and run back to our positions.
We fill 300 trunks in the first hour. After three hours, we start counting down to the last group of cars. Our counter clicks 899 as the last car pulls up. Another hour passes as we finish the distribution by cleaning and packing up. We’re all exhausted but everyone laughs when one of the volunteers cracks a joke. A good thing, because tomorrow we’ll do it all over again.