The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for people and institutions across the board. While it has brought much suffering, it also has highlighted the initiative of people who’ve responded with hope and compassion to help their communities.
That was the case in March and April 2020, when two St. Louis-area school districts ceased meal-delivery services for students whose in-person classes had been suspended due to the pandemic.
“[The districts] had been having bus drivers take meals to students who were on the free breakfast and lunch program,” said Sarah Bardol, a judicial law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. “Unfortunately, a couple of the bus drivers had gotten COVID, so the school district stopped doing that.”
In response, Bardol helped to run “almost daily” food distribution and sandwich-making sessions to provide meals for families who needed them through the summer and fall, her nominator wrote.
Bardol, who clerks for U.S. District Court Judge E. Richard Webber, is active with The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis’ Attorneys Against Hunger Committee. She said committee members shared a strong feeling that they should help to alleviate COVID-19’s disruptive effects in the region.
“Once the pandemic hit, all of the attorneys on the committee said, ‘We need to pivot. We need to be doing something,’” said Bardol, a self-described “army brat” who was born in Oakland, Calif., “grew up all over” and graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law.
The committee coordinated its efforts with the nonprofit Step It Up, which had focused on providing shoes and socks to children who needed them. Step It Up is run by founder Beth Boggs, managing partner of Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs.
The Mobil on the Run convenience store company had been donating lunches for delivery, but the challenges of distributing them were daunting.
“[Boggs] was able to get everyone together, and we pooled our brains and resources and started delivering 200 lunches per location. We were going to nine local library branches on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Bardol said.
Even so, “people started running out. It wasn’t enough even with all of that,” she said.
Bardol, who is also community service chair for BAMSL’s Young Lawyers Division, was among those who started bagging lunches themselves in response.
“We started recruiting volunteers to come out to help us make sandwiches that we could then bag with chips and drinks,” she said of the project, which assembles as many as 2,000 sandwiches each week.
“We have people just sitting in line [waiting for food]” she said. “The distribution won’t start until 10 a.m., and when we get there to set up at 8 o’clock in the morning, there are already people waiting.”
Bardol said it is important to remember that anyone could be in the position of needing food.
“Especially with the pandemic, there are a lot of people who are really ashamed to have to reach out for help,” she said. “They haven’t had to before. We’ve had a lot of people saying that this is their first time coming to ask for food. It is hard.”
She said her own efforts stem from an understanding that those who can lend a hand to help others should do so.
“I think it is just a big part of being an attorney, recognizing that you are in a place of privilege that a lot of people in our community are not able to achieve,” she said. “I think it is very important to make sure that you give back in any way that you can. Being a judicial clerk means that a lot of normal pro bono-type work is off the table. So instead, I just try to do whatever I can.”