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Seattle immigrant-led nonprofit serves up pop-up food bank for TSA

In the midst of the recently concluded 35-day record-breaking partial government shutdown, a local Seattle nonprofit with a local church and two hotels stepped up to help federal employees during the funding impasse. The Be Good Project Foundation a.k.a. BGP teamed up with the Beacon-United Methodist Church, Clarion Hotel in SeaTac and the Seattle Airport Marriott Hotel to set-up a two-day pop-up food pantry on January 26 and 27 respectively. The outreach provided large assortments of food, pet food options and toiletries geared towards previously unpaid federal employees at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who were required to work even during shutdowns. “Our goal has always been to be there when people need us no matter who they are, what they do or where they’re from.” according to Apollo Rimando, founder, and chairman of the Seattle-based nonprofit BGP. “These dedicated men and women continued to work hard and did it without even knowing when they would actually get paid so we salute them for that. It was an opportunity for us to lend a hand and help them put food on their table,” he added. Based on the available data, operations and safety protocols remained normal and call-outs were very minimal compared to other airports around the country like New York’s JFK Airport which saw a 200% increase of sick-calls from a year ago. At the SeaTac airport, though sufficient, some security checkpoints were mildly limited to accommodate the shortage. “The government shutdown took a lot of us by surprise. Most of us live paycheck-to-paycheck. So this was a very scary ordeal. Obviously, bills had to wait, but hunger doesn't.” said STSO Anastacia Baker who helped coordinate the effort along with Steven Quigley and other fellow supervisors and managers by providing additional or longer break schedule to let Officers participate in the outreach.

To Baker, it was more than just food. “We did all we could to keep up the moral. The biggest help you provided was simply the peace of mind you instilled by providing our Officers a means to provide for our families. All of our officers greatly appreciated your effort. Thank you to everyone who was involved and for being so sensitive and friendly to our officers. The situation was stressful enough as it was. Your assistance, information, instructions and the transportation you provided were particularly helpful,” as the Seattle Airport Marriott gladly agreed to let the officers take their airport shuttle to and from their venue. “We were truly honored to be approached by The Be Good Project to be the host venue for their support efforts for local TSA Officers. Being an airport hotel, we feel it’s the least we can do to help out our neighbors and families affected by the recent government shutdown,” explained Ariel Paull, Seattle Airport Marriott’s Director of Catering. Volunteers from BGP and the Beacon United Methodist Church spent hours, long miles to come up with the donations and carried thousands of pounds of food. Along with the church lead volunteers, youth volunteers were also vital in assisting and welcoming the Officers with a friendly smile and an energetic vibe. “It was fun setting up and helping people carry their groceries. They were not able to take care of themselves because they weren’t paid (during the shutdown) so I feel like what we were doing was very important,” said youth volunteer Justin Baradi. While for Nicole Vicente she said, “Helping the TSA officers gave me a chance to learn another aspect of the government shutdown. This whole experience was an eye-opener to see what’s really happening in our country and I was glad to be part of it.” In total, almost 4,000 lbs of goods were served, about 81 officers on record not including the groceries picked up for their families and fellow Officers who were unable to drop by and 36 volunteers helped the two-day outreach that was extended to February 2 and 3 to accommodate further requests for assistance. Officers also shared that one reason why a number of their fellow agents were not able to make their shift was due to the lack of money to pay for gas. But one silver lining they said about the shutdown was passengers were nicer and very thankful to them.

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