Looking Back: Spotlight on Pandemic-relief Volunteers Colleen and Jerry Morrissey
One year ago, communities across The Salvation Army Western Division -- which serves Nebraska, South Dakota and western Iowa -- began to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at our Omaha headquarters, we immediately initiated a pandemic-relief response to help those communities fight back. Twelve months later, as we continue our COVID-relief efforts, we are looking back to salute The Salvation Army volunteers who so readily and generously answered the initial call to serve. Each week, we’ll bring you an inspiring story of a metro-area individual, couple or family who made a big difference in this ongoing battle. Today we continue this series with volunteers Colleen and Jerry Morrissey’s story.
After retiring from a lengthy career in education, Colleen Morrissey made a promise to herself. She committed to finding a volunteer opportunity that she and her husband, Jerry -- who had retired after selling his business, Rapid Graphics and Signs – could participate in together. The ideal opportunity presented itself last March when Colleen saw a call for volunteers in the newspaper after the pandemic forced local schools to close. She and Jerry signed up with The Salvation Army to help distribute meals to food-insecure children and their families.
As a former speech pathologist for Omaha Public Schools, Colleen has seen first-hand the importance of the free and reduced-fee lunch program for food-insecure children. With schools not in session, however, the concern was that kids would not get the nutrition they needed to thrive, which is why Food Bank for the Heartland stepped in, partnering with The Salvation Army and other local agencies to launch the Mobile BackPack Program at 18 locations across the metro and beyond.
In total, the Mobile BackPack Program distributed more than 421,000 meals to food-insecure children and their families between March 20 and August 7. The Morrisseys volunteered weekly at the drive-thru distribution held at Castelar Elementary School.
“It was a great experience, and it felt good to do something concrete when everything else was so uncertain,” said Colleen. “The families who came through to pick up the food were so appreciative and grateful. I felt like we were doing something valuable.”
Although the Mobile BackPack Program has concluded, the Morrisseys have recently felt the itch to volunteer again. “The need never stops,” said Colleen. “There’s always something we can do, and so as long as we are able, we should do it.”