Asking for help can be tough. Westlake officials wanted to help overcome any reluctance by offering a quick and discreet way for residents to seek it.

Last week, city officials announced a new Friday curbside pickup program at the Westlake Senior and Community Services Center that lets residents pick up the food they need without having to make it known they’re struggling.

“This is an easy way for people to take advantage of the food pantry without having to go inside,” said city spokesperson Robert Rozboril. “They can register without giving away any personal information. It plays into the way people like to do things in the modern age. People are very tech-savvy and it takes that idea and brings it into the food pantry concept.”

Those in need can sign up through the city’s community services page on its website (see link below). There, the user can schedule a time to pick up specific items and can opt out of providing personal information. The program’s only qualification is that participants live in Westlake.

The amount of food the department can provide each recipient is determined by their family size, and signs will be posted with the amount of food in each bag at pickup. To make sure both participant and city employees are safe, those picking up food will be required to wear masks, and gloves will be provided. Residents will be allowed to bring only one other person with them when picking up food.

Officials hope to offer the program until the end of May and will consider operating it longer if the demand is there, Rozboril said.

The project was spearheaded by city secretary Susan Laschinger and Outreach Coordinator Donna Feorene after the city wanted to find a way to improve its food distribution during the pandemic.

“As the state opens up, there are still a lot of people who want to be cautious about how they get food,” he said. “It’s trying to turn a negative into a positive and find a new way we could go about the food distribution process.”

The project has been gaining traction. Last week, the Community West Foundation donated a $1,000 grant worth to assist the food pantry in buying both perishable and non-perishable foods.

“We’re excited about this,” Rozboril said. “It’s an innovative way for members of our community to get the help they need without having to expose themselves too much. Hopefully this experiment will succeed and get picked up in other communities in the area.”

The first pickup date was May 15. Residents may register for Friday and May 29 pickup at www.cityofwestlake.org/Activities/Activity/Detail/Curbside-Food-Pickup-for-Westlake-Reside226.

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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