At a time where the coronavirus has caused individuals around the world to trade in the familiar comforts of their daily routines for a period marked with unrest, uncertainty and significant change, it's heartening to see communities come together for the betterment of all. In Western New York, a region that takes great pride in its people's strength and resilience, residents are working around the clock to aid those impacted by the coronavirus. For Bills center Mitch Morse and his wife Caitlin, there was no question that they too would do their part to assist the lovable place that they've come to call home. On Thursday, March 18, the Morses pledged to donate $100,000 to FeedMore WNY – a nonprofit (formerly Meals on Wheels and the Food Bank) committed to providing food for Western New Yorker's of all ages.
"We're not in Buffalo right now. We're in Kansas City. You hear about everyone around the country that's being affected by this – not just by getting sick but economically taking a hit also," explained Mitch. "I think the thing that stuck out to me and Caitlin the most was the kids everywhere who were getting these meals at schools but can't right now. That also sparked the thought, 'Well, if these kids are being affected, I'm sure there are other venues and groups of people that are also feeling the wrath of the economic change brought on by this crisis.'
"It just made sense to us to donate to FeedMore WNY. We wanted to find something that reached the most people in the community as possible and FeedMore WNY does that."
The Morses' remarkable act of kindness will benefit FeedMore WNY – which provides food to more than 135,000 locals in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties annually – immensely as its staff aims to mitigate the mounting challenges presented by the coronavirus. The generous contribution will be allocated toward emergency food relief efforts, serving as a major bright spot for an organization currently seeking donations and volunteer support. To put things in perspective, a $10 gift to FeedMore WNY is enough to give one hot lunch and one refrigerated dinner to a community member. For every $25 donation, the group can offer a backpack of food to five children in need.
"On behalf of all of us at FeedMore WNY and the tens of thousands of vulnerable community members we serve, we thank Mitch and Caitlin Morse for their kindness and incredible generosity," Tara A. Ellis, FeedMore WNY president and CEO, said. "This wonderful gift will enable us to provide more emergency food kits to our neighbors in need, more nutritious meals to our aging, homebound community members and more food to hungry babies and children who need our support more than ever with schools closed. These are dark, troubling days for all of us, but the Morse family is truly shining a light through that darkness and filling it instead with hope."
While the selfless gesture is admirable to say the least, it's not the first time Morse has used his platform to make a difference and it certainly won't be the last. After joining the Bills during the 2019 offseason, the Missouri native and his family quickly developed an affinity for Buffalo and the surrounding areas thanks to the spirited folks who welcomed them with open arms.
"This is a community that's changed our lives," said Mitch. "They've given us an opportunity to never have to worry about much for the rest of our lives. And just the people themselves – their tremendous resiliency, their blue-collar work ethic, is amazing. I think there's something to being in Buffalo that allows you to resonate with these people. You can find a deep connection with them, even though you've only been there for a year and I think it's our duty to help. We're in a position where we can. Since we're not in Buffalo right now, we can't give our time or volunteer our services, so we just did what we could."
In response to the growing crisis, FeedMore WNY has ramped up its protocols to protect its staff, volunteers and clients, as well as to combat the spread of illness and to ensure food safety. They've also expanded their public services over the past week, assisting hundreds of elderly adults who require meal delivery. As FeedMore WNY and its partner pantries and soup kitchens work tirelessly to help those most susceptible to hunger, they are leaning on those willing and able to contribute for added backing.
Now, when supporting one another is critical, the Morses are also encouraging others to be proactive in giving back however they can.
"The number one thing that everyone is saying is the importance of social distancing," said Mitch. "You need to abide by that – you need to take care of yourself, take care of the people around you. But if there's an avenue where you can help, whether it's checking in on a neighbor to see if they need anything, calling friends and family members, donating your time at a food bank to pack up food or deliver meals, consider doing so. Each person's avenue for change is different. Sometimes the best thing you can do, is just be the best parent you can be, right? Or be the best family member you can be. So, every person's different in how they can impact this in a positive manner."
"We didn't do this so that people would pat us on the back. We want this to be a spark for others. We're in a position to help and we're very thankful for that and it's due to the Buffalo community.
To donate to FeedMore WNY now and for more information on how you can get involved, visit here.