POV: A Community Engagement Coordinator tells you about her day

Posted on: February 7, 2022Delaware

Hello and happy new year! My name is Penelope, and I’m the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Food Bank of Delaware.

Penelope masked up and bundled up for a pop-up.
Penelope masked and bundled up for a pop-up.

In my position, I help plan pop-up mobile pantries throughout the state. At a pop-up, we bring a truck of food with enough product to support about 120 families. The pop-ups are drive-thru, and any DE resident is eligible to pick up assistance. My teammate is driver Lanier Williams. He and I locate potential host sites and make connections with people in the community who invite us to their church, apartment complex, community center and so on. 

Using maps that show areas with high COVID vaccine hesitancy rates, I can strategically target more vulnerable communities. Then I invite the state to these pop-ups. Representatives from the Division of Public Health (DPH) bring their vaccination trailer. This allows individuals to talk with a health professional about the vaccine and their apprehensiveness and makes vaccinations more accessible to them.

On a special day, Penelope starts off with a drink from Little Goat Coffee Roasting Co. in Newark, DE. If passing through, she recommends the Snow Day Latte or their Iced Vanilla Matcha Latte
Snow Day Latte from Little Goat

On a typical day, I arrive at the office at 8 a.m. and count how many households were served at the pop-up the day before. By 9:30, I’m usually out and on my way to another pop-up. Many pop-ups are spontaneous, but some occur on a more regular basis. For instance, once a month, we go to Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington, Delaware’s largest city. Henrietta Johnson is a Federally Qualified Health Center providing health to all, regardless of ability to pay. Since I check-in each recipient, I have a great time getting to know the communities I serve. I see many regulars at these pop-ups, and it’s hard to spend less than 10 minutes talking with familiar faces. 

Through this position, I have also made great relationships with other organizations. Alyson Lang is a trainer and educator for the DPH Tobacco Prevention & Control Program. She regularly attends our pop-ups to hand out helpful resources to assist with smoking cessation, stress balls, and reusable grocery bags. Kingswood Community Center in northeast Wilmington serves families impacted by catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Ida in September 2021. Celeste Enzor, the Kingswood Community & Family Service Coordinator, helped me set up biweekly pop-ups there through December. Even now, many of our clients in those neighborhoods still are dealing with the stress of cleaning up their homes. Providing food assistance and cleaning supplies helps ease the financial burden of a natural disaster.

From left to right Ella Edwards [Health Promotion Advocate at Henrietta Johnson Medical Center], Penelope Velasco [NHC Member], Alyson Lang [Trainer and Educator for DPH Tobacco Prevention & Control Program]
Left to right: Ella Edwards, Penelope Velasco, and Alyson Lang

In my position, I’ve really learned how local government works to address the specific needs of their community. I’m especially in awe of nonprofits and other organizations that fill in the gaps to provide joy to their community. Celeste Enzor of Kingswood put together a holiday event so families could pick up presents and wrap them ahead of the holidays. The Food Bank has a close ear to the ground and makes sure we’re available to help whenever we’re called on. It’s been a tough few years for many of us, but serving through the National Health Corps has been a heartening experience for me. I have been reassured of how much people care. 


About the Author:

Penelope Velasco

Member Name:   Penelope Velasco

Pronouns:  She/Her/Hers                                                                                  

NHC Program: Delaware

Host Site: Food Bank of Delaware

Position Title: Community Engagement Coordinator

Host Site

222 Lake Drive
Newark, DE 19701
222 Lake Drive
Newark, DE 19701