An amazing group of volunteers assembles every Wednesday morning at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park representing charitable organizations, the government, service organizations, schools and hospitals. Their goal is to ensure that their neighbors have food on the table during the pandemic.
One of the first casualties of the pandemic was jobs and income. The unemployment rate is the highest it has been on a sustained basis in generations. Feeding South Florida is a voluntary association that collects food and packages it for distribution, and then arranges for its delivery to distribution points. One of the largest distribution points is in Royal Palm Beach.
In the predawn hours every Wednesday morning, cars begin lining up to drive through the double line that is set up to fill each car trunk with fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs and other life-sustaining foods.
Each car can receive supplies for up to two families. The recipients are young, middle aged and seniors who have been adversely affected by the economic downturn spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A highly diverse corps of volunteers has come together in this public-private partnership to care for their neighbors. The tables and tents are set up by Royal Palm Beach Parks & Recreation Department employees. A dozen strong, they view this as a labor of love performed under the leadership of Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio. The people who staff the lines are an amazing cross-section of Royal Palm Beach residents, nonprofit leaders, hospital volunteers, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Rotarians and public officials such as Mayor Fred Pinto and Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara, to name but a few.
In addition to setup staff, the village provides the material-handling equipment and water for the volunteers. Among the many groups that volunteer from week to week are representatives of Palms West Hospital, Generations of Volunteers, Christ Fellowship Church, Palms West Charter School, the American Legion, the PBSO, the Unified Dream Organization, the Royal Palm Beach Rotary and the NRI Institute of Health Sciences.
Last week, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, more than 1,000 families in Royal Palm Beach were aided by this volunteer effort. “There is no better example of voluntarism in action that what the residents of Royal Palm Beach do at Commons Park each week to help their neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis,” Hmara said.
French author, historian and sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville was fascinated by the early American democracy. He spent years traveling America and observing behavior. There was one thing that captivated him most — the American penchant for problem solving at the grassroots level. In this way, the America de Tocqueville observed long ago is alive and well in Royal Palm Beach.