PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Jody Armstrong is small in frame but mighty in character, and her strength shines through during weekly food runs with Feeding Tampa Bay.
For the first time in the 27 year history of the Disability Achievement Center, the non-profit is adding food to their already long list of services to help the community.
"How long will COVID last? We are ready, we are prepared to respond for as long as this pandemic lasts," Armstrong said. "And, then, even after we shut down any declared emergency, we are ready to start up again. That's what we are prepared to do; it's the need, so we are trying to meet the need."
Armstrong said the non-profit teamed up with Feeding Tampa Bay to pick up food at one of their local shopping hubs in Pinellas County every Thursday.
"It's great cause we know we are hitting the need. That's what we try to do as a center for independent living to always try to meet the needs of the disability community," Armstrong said. "The physical is the great part, and we don't have to go to gyms. All of us are working hard lifting those watermelons, lifting those heavy cases of frozen foods, drinks, whatever it takes."
Armstrong is the director of outreach for the center. Before the pandemic, the non-profit helped the disabled by raising funds to build handicap-accessible ramps and stairs to keep people in their homes; they held educational classes and supplied items like motorized scooters, wheelchairs, walkers and other items for the disabled.
There is such a high demand for ramps; they can't keep up. Some people have waited 2-3 years for a ramp. Armstrong says that's why they keep working harder and harder every single day.
"We are all dedicated, and I think that's the reason we are so successful each one of use gives 110% here," Armstrong said. "We are the social safety net that's helping this community. On average, we are supporting 50 households right now, so it's not only the folks with the disability, but it's their families."
Every Thursday, Armstrong said her team is loading and unloading hundreds of pounds of food and getting it sorted and ready to deliver for families in need.
"Knowing the work that we do, the reward is seeing the gratitude on the face of the recipients of not only the food but the durable medical equipment our ramps incontinent supplies folks can't afford these things," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said if anyone wants to help the Disability Achievement Center, donations are appreciated to continue their work.