NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The closure of the Save-A-Lot in the St. Paul’s area of Norfolk has shown the difference people can make when they work together.
Last Saturday, dozens of volunteers met at the store’s former location and handed out fresh food to those in need.
“It was very surprising that so many people showed up,” said St. Paul’s resident Lavonne Pledger, who is a community activist and an organizer for the Communities Food Disparities Coalition.
The Coalition came together in response to the closing of the neighborhood’s lone grocery store.
“It started as ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ and it grew into the Community Food Disparities Coalition. It’s starting to take flight and getting real interest,” he continued.
On Saturday, the group will host another event in the same location from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Pledger says they will continue to have events in the future. He wants people leaving, of course with food, but also with a sense of solidarity that the community is working to address the food desert issue.
“It’s definitely something. We want residents to be a part of these solutions, these human solutions, helping other people,” he said.
And, others in the community are stepping up to help.
Around the corner from the store’s location, volunteers and staff at Teens With A Purpose spent Friday expanding their community garden.
“I’m from Tidewater Gardens,” said 18-year-old Casalm Johnson. “When they shut this [Save-A-Lot] down, I felt like I should come and help with the garden to give back to the community.”
The garden is a safe and creative space for not only teens but others who live in the neighborhood. Vegetables are grown and are given out for free to any who needs them once harvested.
Richard Love, who is the creative program director for Teens With A Purpose, says they will offer whatever they have to those in need. Love also volunteered at last weekend’s food pantry.
“It was beautiful. It’s crazy to see a mass group of people come together in hard times but the fact is, we did it and I hope it shows other people what it means to come together,” he said.
While Love is proud about the turnout and being able to help, he hopes for permanent changes.
“We’re getting food to the community but we would like to see another grocery store, a Black-owned grocery store, and people in the community getting jobs in that space,” he said.
If you would like to volunteer for Saturday’s event, you can meet the group at the Save-A-Lot parking lot off Brambleton and Church Street at 7 a.m.
If you need food, seniors can show up at 9 a.m, Young Terrace residents can come at 10 a.m., Calvert Square residents at 11 a.m., and Tidewater Garden residents at noon.