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Urban League food giveaways help 13,000 families, hope for more

FOUNTAIN PARK – These days, almost all the parades have been canceled. But one socially distant parade with a noble cause went through the Roberts Village Shopping Center on Saturday.

Cars representing about 3,000 people wound through the lot at 1330 Aubert Ave. during the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’s sixth weekly drive-through food and toiletries distribution. The next drive-through distribution will be from noon to 3 p.m. this coming Saturday at the old Jamestown Mall in Florissant.

The mass distributions are a response to the great needs brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, said Michael P. McMillan, the local Urban League’s president and CEO.

“We are doing this because we have received a huge increase in the volume of requests for food, toiletries, rental assistance and so many other things in the office that people will need for basic survival,” McMillan said.

“After we received all their requests, we decided that the normal way of giving out things at our outreach centers was just not enough. So we just decided to do these large-scale distributions,” McMillan said. 

The first time, about 1,075 people were served. Future events will serve more than the 3,000 or so who received food and toiletries on Saturday. As of Saturday, the Urban League had spent $600,000 in cash and in-kind resources in helping 13,000 people in six distributions.

“Our goal is to do this all the way back to school if we can raise the funds in full,” McMillan said. “If it looks like we are able to go back to school, it will probably be a $2 million total expense.”

Various companies, civic organizations and other nonprofit organizations donated to the effort.

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., participates in the Urban League’s food distribution at the Roberts Village Shopping Center,1330 Aubert Ave. in Fountain Park on Saturday.
Various appointed and elected public officials were at the event. They included First District U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo.; St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed; and Fourth District state Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis.

“This is what community looks like, and this is what leadership looks like,” May said.

 “We’re in the middle of a crisis. This is what community looks like. We’re not responsible for how other people treat us,”  May said. “He’s going to judge you on how you treated them.”

Also helping out was St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie M. Edwards.

“I was here at the one that was held here in the City of St. Louis,” Edwards said. “I just think it’s an outstanding thing that a lot of people are doing that’s led by the Urban League and Mike McMillan himself.”

During Saturday’s event, volunteers wearing masks piled food and toiletries into trunks. To cut down personal contact, drivers had opened trunks in advance. 

Drivers line up at the Urban League’s food distribution at the Roberts Village Shopping Center on Saturday.
“The need is just overwhelming,” said Angelia D. Bills, an Urban League spokeswoman.

“We have had to turn away cars. We have run out of space,” Bills said. “It’s mostly people who have lost their jobs.”

Supporting organizations and businesses included Enterprise Holdings Foundation, the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund Coalition, Emerson, the Regional Business Council, Sysco, McDonald’s, St. Bank of America, Mason & Associates, Spire, USBank, Ameren, Craftsman, Dot Foods, McCarthy, Keely Cares, CSI Leasing, Commerce Bank, Simmons Bank, Penske, MTM, Schnucks, Regions Bank, United Way of Greater St. Louis, St. Louis Area Food Bank, Fred Weber, Esco Technologies, Fabick Cat, Holland, St. Louis Teamsters, PNC Bank and Operation Food Search.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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  1. I missed the last food giveaway so please let me know when and where the next food drive is ??

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