Sen. Patricia Ritchie, left, presented the Phillips family, from left to right: Logan, 16, Leah, 12, and their father Trevor, with the Senate Commendation Award for organizing community food pantries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Provided photo

WATERTOWN — In April of last year, two sisters came to their father concerned about the families who were unable to work and support themselves during the pandemic, so the three decided to set up a food pantry in the front yard of their home where people could come and take what they needed.

Trevor L. Phillips, along with his daughters Logan A. Phillips, 16, and Leah K. Phillips, 12, were recently presented with the New York State Senate’s Commendation Award for their efforts by State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.

The New York State Senate Commendation Award recognizes exceptional people who have made a lasting contribution to their communities.

“The many ways people stepped up to help others who were struggling during the pandemic are inspiring — and it’s especially amazing to hear the stories of young people who recognized a need and took action to help others,” said Senator Ritchie in a statement. “That’s exactly what Leah and Logan Phillips did, along with their father Trevor. By turning their front yard into a food pantry and then hosting a larger scale food distribution event, they helped feed hundreds of families during a very scary, challenging time. I am honored to be able to recognize them for their efforts and look forward to seeing how these young ladies, along with their father, continue to make a difference in their community.”

Friends, family members, area residents and local businesses contributed to the pantry. After witnessing the huge need at their first food pantry event, the Phillips family decided to organize another food pantry event, this time in the Watertown Savings Bank parking lot.

Mr. Phillips’ state Department of Corrections colleagues, as well as friends and family, volunteered their time to distribute food to those in need, with many attendees showing up several hours in advance of the pantry’s opening to obtain fruit, vegetables, canned goods and other items.

The original idea for the home food pantry came after the girls saw what was going on and that people from their mother’s work, a salon, weren’t getting any paychecks coming in, and they had nowhere to turn.

It started out, as many things do these days, with a Facebook post. Just a few hours after notice of the first food pantry had been posted, all the food was gone, Mr. Phillips said.

“A lot of people were swinging by and we had nothing left,” he said. “Then over the next week I started getting all these messages on Facebook of people still in need. Literally over 100 messages in my in box.”

He spoke with Logan and Leah, who are going to be starting 11th and 7th grades at South Jefferson, respectively, and they decided to do a bigger and better food pantry event. Mr. Phillips got in touch with a friend at Renzi Foodservice, and friends at Watertown Savings Bank offered their parking lot. With support from a couple other businesses and friends and family, the Phillips family raised between $15,000 and $20,000 for the second food pantry.

“It went crazy on Facebook,” Mr. Phillips said of the pantry efforts. “Facebook was such a catalyst behind it all, we reached so many people and it got a lot bigger than we thought.”

One of the reasons they did it was for others to catch on and see how important it was to do, Mr. Phillips said. A friend of his set one up in Adams and another in Chaumont. The pantry events didn’t just gather human food, they also collected and distributed pet foods, which Mr. Phillips said went the fastest.

“I think it was really important to help a lot of people because they couldn’t afford to feed their families, and I also thought about feeding all the pets because people were trying to take care of them and their kids,” Logan said.

Thankful for all the help, Mr. Phillips said he and his daughters couldn’t have done it without Renzi, Watertown Savings Bank and all the people who donated, that it was truly a group effort. As successful as it all was, he said he hopes they don’t have to do it again, that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

“There were a lot of other people that helped to do it,” Leah said. “I think we should just start putting our kindness into the world.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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