South County ‘Helpers’ provide aid during COVID-19 crisis

Representatives+of+the+St.+Louis+Area+Foodbank+and+the+Missouri+National+Guard+survey+the+drop+off+site+on+Locust+Street+for+the+Fill+Up+the+Pickup+Challenge+this+Saturday.

Representatives of the St. Louis Area Foodbank and the Missouri National Guard survey the drop off site on Locust Street for the Fill Up the Pickup Challenge this Saturday.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

Several local residents have formed groups of neighborhood volunteers to serve as the “helpers” for local families in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

Facebook groups have been set up in Oakville and Sunset Hills/Crestwood to organize neighborhood captains to help with needs as people are suffering during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Subdivisions across Oakville are joining the “St. Louis Fill Up the Pickup Challenge” that was started by Oakville residents but has gained participation from throughout the region. Volunteers will collect food donations from each subdivision and deliver them on Saturday, May 2 to 3200 Locust Street to benefit the St. Louis Area Foodbank. Personal care items can also be donated.

Collections can be made by leaving food outside, complying with social-distancing regulations.

Each subdivision has a lead volunteer who will distribute information and tell residents how food will be collected, then drive the food in a truck or SUV to the socially distanced dropoff point on Locust. The Missouri National Guard has also joined the effort and will be loading National Guard trucks with the collected food on Saturday.

Oakville subdivisions that have joined the challenge so far include Oakville Woods, Arrowhead, Greycliff, New England Town, New England Village, Chalet Forest, Cambridge Pointe, Crystal Lake, Fordyce Bluff, Fairfield Estates, Briarwood Estates, Royal Point, Winchester Place, Cardinal Creek, Southview Hills and The Bluffs at Christopher Estates. For an updated list or how to help, visit the Facebook group “St. Louis Fill Up The Pickup Challenge.”

Overall, more than 30 neighborhoods and 10 ZIP codes across St. Louis County are participating, even outside of Oakville, such as Cedarberry Parke in 63123, San Simeon in Fenton, Ballwin and Maplewood.  Interest has come from as far as St. Charles and Belleville, Illinois too.

Organizer Scott Huegerich, who lives in Oakville, said, “I was basically tired of sitting on the couch and doing nothing, and not feeling that I can contribute… If you just kind of have a general sense of what’s going on and how medical facilities are being taxed and how people are out of work, the fear that’s going on, one of the easiest ways that I think individual citizens like myself can help is just by donating food.”

Huegerich said he and other neighborhood organizers chose the St. Louis Area Foodbank because it donates to food pantries across the entire region, with no geographic boundaries other than St. Louis as a whole.

“The goal is to help as many people as we can and to make people feel engaged that they’re helping as much as they can,” he said.

Those donating food can pull up Saturday at the dropoff site, which is the site of the company that Huegerich owns, pull up next to a food donation barrel, drop off the food and never have to be in contact with anyone else. Volunteers will take the food inside, where the food bank will pick it up later since it is not open for donations on Saturdays.

Crestwood-Sunset Hills group meets needs

Crestwood Ward 4 Alderman Ismaine Ayouaz started the Facebook group “Crestwood-Sunset Hills COVID-19 Helpers” at the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Now with help from Sunset Hills resident Erin Kelley, executive director of anti-drug organization Step Up St. Louis, the group has helped local families in need and even extended its reach to families in North County.

Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter, a co-administrator of the group, thanked Mayor Grant Mabie and Crestwood’s trash provider, Waste Connections, at the April 14 Board of Aldermen meeting for providing clean recycling bins as dropoff points throughout the cities.

“The work you guys have been doing with that group has been incredible, and it’s a good example of helping the community,” Mabie said.

The intention of the group is to help “people in dire need,” Ayouaz said. “Some people in Crestwood have lost their jobs, and they need help from the community to get back on their feet. If you can donate money or essential items go to the Facebook page — any help is appreciated.”

The volunteers with dropoff points at their house, plus public dropoff sites at Mungenast Honda and the Sunset Hills Community Center, are collecting donations of money, food, cleaning and health items like diapers for families in need.

Ayouaz intends the Facebook group to serve as a gathering place for those who need help and those who want to assist them. Anyone with a need can fill out a Google form, which will be kept confidential with the three administrators of the group and the captain who drops off a care box.

The alderman said he got the idea when he posted about the crisis near its beginning, and a woman from Crestwood replied that she and her husband had both lost their jobs. Modeling the group after a Facebook group in another location, he hopes it can grow and help more people as time goes on.

More than 200 people have joined the group and participated so far.

“The idea was to have different places in Crestwood and Sunset Hills where you can donate, but also have people who were not affected by the virus, that were not forced to be in quarantine, be available to help the neighbors — let’s say a senior citizen needs to go to the grocery store but cannot go,” Ayouaz said. “Really the idea was to offer a place for people to find resources and share ideas and also to not feel alone. In this trying time sometimes people feel alone, they don’t know where to go to find what to do, and that was a place for people like this too.”

The Lindbergh Foundation has also offered its support to Lindbergh Schools families affected by the virus outbreak and the economic downturn. Anyone who needs food for the table or technology for students can call 314-729-2448 or email covidhelp@lindberghschools.ws. All calls and emails are 100-percent confidential.

“None of us could have imaged the circumstances we now find ourselves in, but we are prepared to do what we can to help out,” the foundation posted on Facebook.

The organization also sold “Lindbergh Together” T-shirts to raise funds for those in need.