CARBONDALE – One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for food assistance continues across northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, March 23, Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton tackled that need by holding an Easter food distribution outside its offices in Carbondale.

Families began lining up in their cars along River Street more than an hour before the distribution began.

“I don’t think anybody expected it to last this long,” Michelle Santanna, Catholic Social Services Carbondale Office Manager, said reflecting on the past year of the pandemic. “The need is still there. My pantry is busy every single week. I’m open every single day. It is a constant flow of people.”

To help alleviate the stress of families around the holidays, Catholic Social Services in Carbondale has been hosting special food distributions in addition to their normal pantry services.

“It frees up a little bit of money for them,” Santanna explained.

Ham, vegetables, juice and other essentials were provided to 297 families during the event. That translated to 472 individuals receiving assistance.

“It does help. It really does. I’m very thankful for them,” William Staples of Carbondale said.

Staples was surprised to see all of the cars lined up for assistance.

“I have a lot of grandkids and they come down and visit and I always have to have something for them. Between me and my wife, she can’t get out because she’s in a walker. I work three days a week. This helps because all we get is social security,” Staples added.

Individuals and families could either drive-up or walk-up to receive assistance. Numerous drivers expressed sincere appreciation for the help.

“I’m so happy that there is a place here that can give them that help,” volunteer Carrie DiGregorio said. “I have family in other states and there is no help for them so it’s great to have a place for them to come to when they really need something.”

DiGregorio volunteers for Catholic Social Services several days a week. She has seen the constant need for help firsthand.

“A lot of people have suffered because of this pandemic and there are a lot of people that have been out of work or couldn’t work because of the pandemic so there have been a lot more people needing food or clothing,” she added.

In 2020, the Catholic Social Services Carbondale Office alone served 7,287 households. That translates to more than 10,000 children and adults receiving assistance.

“The mission of Catholic Social Services is to serve individuals and families facing hardship,” Mary Theresa Malandro, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, said. “The need for assistance continues to grow and our staff has been working tirelessly to give people a helping hand.”

Anyone needing assistance from Catholic Social Services in the Carbondale area can call (570) 282-0460.