As the government shutdown drags on, a food pantry has popped up on the United States Coast Guard Academy’s campus in New London to help struggling families who went without their first paycheck on Tuesday.
With the help of the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer’s Association and the Southern New England Branch of the Coast Guard Enlisted Association, Leamy Hall was transformed into a makeshift food pantry as 2,000 people continue to oversee the Coast Guard’s daily operations without pay and 160 members remain furloughed.
“It’s amazing that people care about us this much in our time of need,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Miranda Brudzinski said. “It definitely takes some of the burden off.”
“We’ve had multiple Good Samaritans just pull up in their car right outside Leamy Hall right here on (the) Coast Guard Academy campus and just bring us boxes or bags or anything that they … anything that they can think of that will help,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin said.
Coast Guard officials said anyone who works for the Department of Homeland Security, which is unfunded during the shutdown, is welcome to come by and pick up supplies from non-perishable food items to toiletries to baby items.
Brudzinski, a mother of two, said every bit helps.
“Stuff for lunches. Rice Krispie treats, chips, stuff to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” she said.
And for those much more willing to give than receive, she had some comforting words.
“This is a judge-free zone. This is here for everybody. The more you take, we can get more. We want people to get the help that they need,” she said.
Mystic Seaport Museum is offering free admission to furloughed federal workers and a guest throughout the duration of the shutdown.
“We wanted to give people the opportunity to get out of the house, to come do something, get their mind off of it,” Mystic Seaport spokesperson Dan McFadden said.
In New London, longtime community activist Michelle Allen is collecting food, gift cards, gas cars and winter clothing at her New London home on Monday.
She’ll be creating a list of impacted government workers and will distribute the goods based on their needs.
People can stop by 64 Mountain Ave. in New London between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut recently contacted local businesses to see if they’d provide discounts for those impacted by the shutdown. They have a list on their website.