Volunteers make a difference at Prodisee Pantry


SPANISH FORT, Alabama — Prodisee Pantry volunteers were once again on the front lines providing food for Baldwin County residents on Tuesday, April 14 at Spanish Fort High School.

“The volunteers at Prodisee Pantry represent who we are,” says Executive Director Deann Servos. “I just want to thank all of those who are helping at this time, and to all of those who are staying at home during this time because they are high rise, we want them to stay safe.”

Normally throughout a given week, Prodisee Pantry sees as many as 200 volunteers come through, Servos said. Right now, the organization is limiting its volunteers to between 50 and 70, and they are further limiting the number of volunteers that come through at one time to ensure safe distancing.

Fewer volunteers means fewer people doing more work, Servos said, “and we certainly appreciate those volunteers who are working hard to help people.”

What used to take under an hour is now taking three or four hours.

“We really appreciate the sacrifices they are making as well as the sacrifices of the volunteers who are choosing to stay at home and stay safe,” she said.

Volunteers work tirelessly in the office and on distribution days to make sure Baldwin County residents get the food they need, Servos said.

Melissa Tesch and her husband James, a retired petty officer first class with the Navy, moved to Baldwin County from Virginia and she has been a volunteer for the last 2 ½ years working in the office helping people get assistance, not only with Prodisee Pantry but with other agencies.

“During his last two commands, I worked as a liaison with families of those who are deployed,” she said. “Part of that work was getting assistance for families who might need help with food and other necessities so that really prepared me for this situation.”

On food days, she says, she normally works with clients making sure they get the food they need. Right now, she and other volunteers are quarantined in the office taking phone calls and directly clients to where they need to go.

“With this situation, there are a lot of people out of work, so we are seeing a lot of people that we wouldn’t normally see at this time,” she said. “It is just very rewarding being able to get people the help they need. “I’m just really proud of the work Prodisee Pantry is doing and proud to be a part of it.”

Peggy Franks and her husband Norman both have been volunteering at Prodisee Pantry for the last three years.

Peggy was a teacher for 30 years, starting in Birmingham before they moved to Baldwin County where she taught at Robertsdale and retired from Coastal Alabama Community College. Norman worked for Alabama Power for 42 years before retiring.

Over the last few weeks, Peggy has helped on Monday’s packing food for distribution on Tuesdays. On Tuesdays she’s been up front working to check people’s IDs and Norman mans the parking lot to help keep cars running smoothly.

“We were just talking to people in their cars and they were all so appreciative,” she said. “Everyone in line was thanking us, coming through saying ‘thank you’ and ‘God bless you,” and ‘we don’t know what we would do if it wasn’t for you.’ It’s just very rewarding to be able to help people doing everything that we can to make sure people have enough food here in Baldwin County.”

Franks said she appreciates Servos and all of her staff, and all of the volunteers who work together to make sure people in Baldwin County are fed.

“They are all so compassionate and are always thinking of other people and making sure they get the food they need,” she said. “It’s just such a rewarding thing to be able to help people and they all really appreciate us being there.”

Servos said she is looking forward to being able to move back to a state of normal so that they can sit down with those they serve and make sure they are getting what they need to move forward.

“In the meantime, we are moving forward with the volunteers that we do have to ensure people get the food that they need,” she said. “It is just as much about providing comfort and hope in this time of need as it is providing food and all of our volunteers understand that.”