When you think about border patrol agents, what comes to mind?
Chances are it’s not food distribution sites along the U.S.-Canadian border.
But during the COVID-19 shutdowns, while the border between the United States and Canada has been closed, many border patrol agents have been volunteering with Catholic Charities Maine, handing out food boxes from the USDA Farmers to Families program, which is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program put in place to provide relief to communities across the country during the pandemic.
“We had the perfect plan,” says Dixie Shaw, director of Hunger & Relief Services for Catholic Charities Maine. With the border closed and the regular corps of volunteers – mostly senior citizens – remaining in their homes, Catholic Charities partnered with U.S. Border Patrol agents who – in addition to their other duties – were willing to spend some time helping the communities in northern Maine.
And the need has been great. Shaw says that at each distribution site there are long lines of cars waiting to get the food boxes. So far, during the pandemic, Catholic Charities Maine has distributed around 70,000 boxes of food, each box weighing in at 30 pounds. Volunteers – particularly strong volunteers like the border patrol agents – have really saved the day.
“And the people love to see [the border patrol agents],” says Shaw. “They are so pleasant and they move the boxes of food from the delivery trucks to the trunks of our clients’ cars. People don’t have to get out of their cars.”
The border patrol agents have benefited too. Often they deal with situations on the job that are not pleasant. So distributing food is an opportunity to be part of something that is all good.
“It’s been a win-win over all,” Shaw says. “You can just tell how much they’re enjoying being part of the program. They get to interact with people in a positive manner, and they are happy to do it.”
To listen to a podcast episode that features Shaw describing the volunteer efforts of the U.S. border patrol agents, click here.
[Photos were taken by Dixie Shaw and are used with her permission.]