LAUGHLIN — When a volunteer at the Colorado River Food Bank tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, it sent the CRFB into hibernation and clients who rely on it into a potential tailspin.
The agency that distributes food to countless Laughlin residents shuttered its doors as a precaution as well as proper protocol, leaving many worried about food security.
Immediately, several Laughlin organizations and individuals stepped up to fill that void. Spearheaded by the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce under the guidance of President and CEO Jackie Mazzeo, and aided by a bevy of like-minded civic groups, including American Legion Post 60, Legion Riders, Post Auxiliary, Post Sons of the American Legion, Laughlin Elks, the River Fund and Silver Rider, and local citizens that included Randall Adams, Marth Lapean and Kathy Ochs.
They went into action two days after the CRFB press release announcing the issue, to keep the food rolling to those in need. Not only did the groups jump right into action that same week, but by July 25, they had already formed a committee to make Operation “Distribute the Daily” as they named it, a smooth-
The committee is made up of Commander Pam Walker, American Legion Post 60; Fred Doten, president of the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; Herman Walker, Laughlin Town Advisory Board; Kathy Hoss, Laughlin Elks; Ochs, vice chairperson of the Laughlin Town Advisory Board; Mike Jackson, Silver Rider; Mark Robledo, Clark County analyst at the Laughlin Regional Government Center; Mazzeo, president and CEO of the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce and Laughlin Tourism Commission; Val Gabaldon, executive assistant at the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce; Joyce Moreno, Volunteers in Partnership liaison from the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce; and Donna Englemeier, VIP volunteer.
The chamber building was chosen as the distribution site given its proximity to the CRFB next door, and chamber staff along with other volunteers set the place up for that new task, adding directional and informative signage for visitors to make the distribution go smoothly to secure as much food for distribution as they could and to work out the logistics of how to distribute the foodstuffs to those in need.
Donations were set up and came pouring in from many of the same people who volunteered for Operation “Distribute the Daily.” They poured out their own money to keep food on hand to distribute. The list of donors: Legion Post 60, $500; Legion Riders, $500; Post Auxiliary, $500; Post SAL, $500; Laughlin Elks, $500; Adams, $500; Lapean, $100; Ochs, in-kind donation; River Fund, bottled water; and Silver Rider, transportation.
They gathered the food necessary to make up bags to distribute that contained peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two bottles of water and other items. Silver Rider helped distribute along with the other members, not just at the chamber building where folks could come by and pick it up in person, but also out in the community via Silver Rider buses and personal vehicles as well. Everybody had a role to play in the operation, and they rolled out to make sure that those most in need in Laughlin got the food they must have to stay healthy.
Mazzeo chronicled the successful routout of Operation “Distribute the Daily” in an email on July 21:
“Hello everyone, I am pleased to report that operation “Distribute the Daily” went just fine on the first day.”
She said that equipment and supplies were set up a day earlier and included 1,000 pounds — 120 gallons — of water from the River Fund and sandwiches made by the American Legion food handlers.
“More food was delivered today from the Elks and Legion to accompany the sandwiches,” she wrote. “Volunteers are working our great from the Legion and VIPs. ALL Nevada and county COVID protocols are being followed and the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce mitigation procedures are in place. We should be able to accommodate daily distributions for a minimum of two weeks. No-contact distribution to those seeking a meal is in practice and we have extra water. The operation has been funded by $3,100 in donations.”
On July 22, Town Manager Brian Paulson asked Mazzeo to keep his office and the town board in the loop.
“I would also like to attend the next planning meeting. Thank you,” he wrote.
A July 23 email showed the progress and adaptations the group was making: “We got bags from the government center and some were dropped off. We have about 100 daily bags prepared for the insertion of sandwiches next week. Legion will prepare fresh sandwiches and deliver to the chamber,” the update said.
And as of Monday, things still were operating smoothly, according to Mazzeo.
“I was out delivering the leftover sandwiches from last week to all of the homeless at the churches,” she wrote. “We had 31 left over and I had the urge to get them distributed to those who needed them. Who is providing notes form the meeting? Service counts will be sent starting tonight. The signs are working and word is getting out that the distribution is at the chamber for the next couple of weeks. ... All unused purchased and donated products will be given to the food bank when services are moved back to the facility. I have been informed that we will be issuing three lunch bags on Friday to each person, to hold them over the weekend, and ensure that they have enough water.”
The group will continue the distribution until the Food Bank gets an all clear back from Southern Nevada Health District from last weeks staff testing held at the CRFB offices on Civic Way. All who test negative will return to work and any who test positive will not. They will quarantine at home for 14 days. More testing is expected to ensure that continued safety is maintained throughout Laughlin’s food distribution chain.
In the meantime, Laughlin’s most vulnerable residents still are being fed, thanks to the civic volunteerism and selflessness exhibited by many of the town’s groups and residents.