A Message from Chip Paillex, our President & Founder: A War Worth Fighting
March 20, 2020
As constant streams of updates regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) overtake the local news, the major news networks, and social media, an unwelcome yet altogether familiar feeling came over me this week and I’m sure over many others too. For me personally, it was that sinking feeling I unfortunately remember from September 11, 2001 (9/11), which started as a “picture perfect” morning filled with blue skies and warm sun but then suddenly changed and turned my “picture perfect” life completely upside down. The pain experienced as a result of those horrible acts committed that morning and the loss of countless loved ones across this country is still felt deep down inside by so many.
With all airline travel halted, fears of future acts of terrorism, and the realization of war on the horizon –and for my family and me, with a son who soon after enlisted in the Army – there was a clear sense that our lives would never be the same. But as a family and as a nation we were resilient, and though there was much loss and sacrifice along the way, with the support, encouragement, and love of a broad unity of neighbors and strangers alike, we eventually got to the other side.
Though I did not live through World War II, through my parents and grandparents I’ve heard countless stories of sacrifice, sadly on a much greater scale. My parents still today have a framed sign hanging in their laundry room that was posted in my grandparents’ apartment that speaks to ways to recycle, ration, and save metal, paper, and rubber and use less fuel in support of the war efforts. Little did they know that for me personally, each time I’ve passed by the sign it’s been a subtle yet constant reminder of not only how blessed we are but also how a country came together to support our troops who were in the midst of a war worth fighting. The combination of the bravery of those who went to battle and the sacrifices made by those back in the states on the home front led to that collective group of heroes being rightly named and honored with the title the “Greatest Generation.”
Today we are facing what some are calling our own World War II. And in many ways this is true. One can argue that a clear parallel exists, except that in this world war we are fighting a pandemic and not each other. Today the front lines are here at home, where healthcare professionals are putting themselves at risk to treat the sick, stock clerks in the supermarkets are keeping the shelves filled with food to feed our families, human services programs are filling to capacity, first responders are working long hours, and many hunger relief organizations like America’s Grow-Row are feeding those who don’t have enough to eat. Sacrifices are being made and heroes are emerging across the board.
We as a country, from the small towns to the big cities to the rural areas and everywhere in between, are being called to band together to not only help our families, friends, and neighbors but also strangers in need. We must all make temporary lifestyle changes, and as a result uncomfortable sacrifices will need to be made. At America’s Grow-a-Row, though we are making changes to how we will plant and harvest our crops this year, what won’t change is that we will continue with our plan to deliver over 1.5 million pounds, or 6 million servings, of produce for those faced with hunger and food insecurity this year. We realize that this strategy will potentially incur additional expenses for 2020 as the need for healthy food will continue to be on the rise, but be confident as you consider the following, because we are poised to execute all points of our plan and are committed to doing so:
- Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other governmental agencies might be changing quickly, but we too are adapting quickly to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the hungry and the 65,000 people we impact annually
- Our Programming, Development, and Administrative teams are well situated to continue operations in this crisis because by design nearly all of us have the ability to work remotely, while our Farm team can safely distance themselves from each other in the fields
- Given the time-tested cross-functional nature of our team, many of us wear multiple hats and are used to adapting quickly to the organization’s ever-changing needs
- Our Farm team has great confidence that with some incremental staffing adjustments to offset any volunteer gaps, and enhancements given the fluid plan we have recently instituted, we will be able to stay on track for another successful planting and harvest season
- Though we have decided to pull back on some off-site programs because of the need for social distancing, temporarily we are channeling that energy into food production, which is most critical right now, and any shifted programs will be reinstated once things begin to normalize
Today, like never before, our work here at America’s Grow-a-Row could not be more important. In any given year the food banks, local food pantries, soup kitchens, and other hunger relief organizations we support across the region greatly rely on our produce, but more so now given this current crisis. The work we do here is clearly a necessity, especially for the vulnerable and underserved population who desperately need healthy fresh produce to boost their immune systems during the spread of COVID-19. I’m asking you to consider enlisting and joining in our efforts in a war worth fighting to help our neighbors both near and far who are being additionally challenged during their greatest time of need.
The steps we take now and how we handle this challenge will not only test us but will define us as a nation and as individuals. Deep down inside I believe that we as a country will get through this difficult time just as we have done in the past. And, likewise, here at America’s Grow-a-Row we have weathered many storms over the past 19 years and we will get to the other side of this as well. To all those who plan to band together, and who aspire to the same ideals and resiliency that the Greatest Generation taught us oh so many years ago, I say thank you in advance for all of your support, and I look forward to seeing you all in the fields again someday soon.
May God bless you all, and may you and your loved ones all be well.
President & Founder