Democratic challengers use campigning skills for Westbay food donations

By JUSTIN MORETTI
Posted 4/23/20

While in-person activities are on hold right now, two local candidates have taken action to help their community.

Kendra Anderson and Zachary Colón are both hoping to be the winners of …

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Democratic challengers use campigning skills for Westbay food donations

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While in-person activities are on hold right now, two local candidates have taken action to help their community.

Kendra Anderson and Zachary Colón are both hoping to be the winners of their respective Democratic primaries in September and elected officials come November. For time being they are lending a hand to those in need. Anderson and Colón, who both announced their decision to run for office via Facebook last year, sponsored and organized a food drive to help those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anderson, who is running for the Rhode Island State Senate seat in District 31 (Warwick and Cranston), put her traditional campaign activities on hold and told her supporters she would seek new ways to campaign. It was during this time that she noticed problems pertaining to food and income.

“I saw the food insecurity and people not getting their checks and their stimulus or their unemployment checks,” she said. “People were starting to talk about needing food and long ago I had some connections with Westbay Community Action food bank and we called them and found that they had a thriving food pantry but were in dire need of food.”

Because of the pandemic, Westbay’s food pantry is serving three times the number of people than normally. Colón happens to have the same campaign manager, Alex Malm, as Anderson. When he heard about the idea, Colón jumped on board and was ready to do his part.

“Right now, obviously, it’s hard for us to go campaign for our own campaigns,” Colón said. “We figured the best use of our time, if we can’t work to promote ourselves for office, we might as well work for the community and see who needs help and do what we can.”

On April 6, Anderson and Colón began collecting monetary donations through their page on Actblue.com and also non-perishable food donations. Those who wanted to donate non-perishable items would have had to fill out a Google form or email Malm, who works alongside both candidates, and then a campaign staffer would’ve been in touch. 

Those who sought to donate money had the option to choose different amounts to donate, $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 or input their own amount. The average amount donated was roughly $45 and the largest donation that they received was for $200 according to Colón.

The initiative lasted for just under two weeks, ending on the morning of Saturday, April 18. In total, they were able to collect 70 non-perishable items and $1,690 in monetary donations. Anderson and Colón took the money that was donated and split it between them to go to a handful of different stores to shop for food for Westbay’s pantry. 

“We spread it out between five or six stores so that we weren’t clearing the shelves for other people as well,” Anderson said. “We wanted to be sensitive to the fact that people needed to access these stores as well.”

After all of the shopping, Anderson and Colón delivered the food to Westbay’s food pantry. In total, they were able to purchase 1,400 food items along with the 70 non-perishable items that were donated. Once at the food pantry, they were assisted by Westbay’s associate director of social services, Josyln Groves and her daughter Kyla. Groves couldn’t believe what she was seeing. 

“We were extremely grateful,” Groves said. “It was overwhelming and a great donation that was much needed. It came at the right time and it was great to see how they (Anderson and Colón) and the whole community come together.”

Anderson and Colón are both taking on incumbents in the Sept. 8 Democratic primary who have held their respective seats for more than a decade. Anderson is challenging fellow Democrat, Erin Lynch Prata, who has been in office since 2008. Colón, 20, a Toll Gate High School graduate and history major at Rhode Island College, is running for the Ward 9 seat on the Warwick City Council. He is challenging Steve Merolla, who has held his seat on the city council since January of 1999 and has been the City Council President since May of 2018. AHELPING HAND: 1,470 total food items were donated last Saturday to Westbay Community Action Inc. Their food pantry is helping three times the normal amount of people than usual.

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