Former NBA star Antonio Davis of Oakland volunteers on the native pantry

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) – Volunteers are in short supply, although they are needed now more than ever to keep vital services like pantries open and up and running.

The longer the pandemic lasts, the longer it takes at the Emeryville Community Action Program, where every day more families show up struggling to get free food.

The existing shelter and social distancing that has pushed people out of their jobs and into line has also left food banks and distribution locations without 40% of their volunteer workforce.

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“Great coaches don’t leave children in times of greatest need, or as an organization,” said Janet Carter, CEO of Coaching Corps.

Coaching Corps is an Oakland-based nonprofit that connects pre-pandemic athletic mentors – coaches – with low-income children.

But with the cancellation of sports and group meetings, the mission changed.

“We have redeployed our greatest asset, which is getting volunteers to meet the immediate needs of communities.”

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Trainers are now packing groceries for those hardest hit by the viral recession.

A few months ago, Oakland-born and retired NBA player Antonio Davis signed up to coach the Corps.

“The only thing I know is basketball!”

But when the courts closed, Davis wanted to direct his volunteer efforts, so the Coaching Corps joined him with the ECAP.

“I packed boxes, unloaded various things, distributed food, organized something.”

Davis actually grew up near the West Oakland Food Pantry, where he now volunteers several times a week.

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“I’ve passed this place and seen them in action for many years, but I’ve never been here to really meet people and see where their hearts were or what they did, but forever changed my life,” said Davis .

“I’ll always come here a couple of times a week no matter what’s going on and give me some time.”

Pandemic conditions have made volunteering more complicated, but the work is necessary.

“We take precautions. We wash things off, we wear the gloves, we wear the masks,” said Bobby Miller, volunteer and ECAP operations manager.

Coaching Corps now provides half of its volunteers. “Thanks to them, we can go on very systematically and safely for everyone.”

Food delivery is considered a government approved essential service.

Unless you are in a high risk category for exposure to COVID-19, there are dozens of locations in the Bay Area and across the country to volunteer with. Care donations are required even if you cannot volunteer.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours using the form below or here.

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