Transportation Security Administration employees at Washington Dulles International Airport have established a food pantry to assist employees in the airport community who may have been laid off or seen their work hours cut due to the dramatic drop in passengers as a result of the coronavirus.
In a similar vein to the efforts of TSA staff at Green Bay-Austin Straubel Airport, Dulles’ TSA employees see the pantry as “paying it forward” because last year during the federal government furlough, the airport community donated food, gift cards, diapers, etc., to assist TSA employees who were working without a paycheck. The difference, however, is that TSA employees eventually were paid for the time they worked. The airport contractors and airline employees who have been laid off or had their work hours reduced will not be paid.
“During the furlough we set up a TSA food pantry and the community donated in mass,” said Eric Chin, the TSA Assistant Federal Security Director for Screening at the airport. “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and vendors at the airport purchased meals for the TSA officers during that time. Now we’ve seen hundreds of layoffs taking place in the airport community and we figured we would do what we could do to give back and help.”
The Food Pantry opened on Sunday, April 5, and is open for eight hours a day, seven days a week and is stocked with dried and canned goods such as vegetables, soups, cereal, oatmeal, tuna, beans, pasta, peanut butter, preserves, condiments and soda. Some toiletry items also are available for those who need them.
“We were extremely appreciative for what the Airports Authority and airport community as a whole did for TSA employees during the furlough” explained Cissy Myers, a TSA Lead Transportation Security Officer who has been working at Dulles since 2006. “Additionally, we learned a lot during the government shutdown about what people need in addition to food. People need toiletries. They need things like laundry soap, toothpaste and diapers in addition to food, so we are looking to provide those items as well.”
Members of the TSA workforce are dropping off food and some are offering funds to use to purchase groceries to stock the shelves. “Anyone can donate, even if they don’t work at the airport,” Myers said.
The Airports Authority provided the space for the pantry on the arrivals level of the terminal and furnished it with shelves and ensures that the room is clean. Hand sanitizer stations are situated just inside and outside the pantry’s entrance. One TSA officer staffs the pantry and up to four individuals are permitted to enter at a time to ensure social distancing. Pantry visitors are encouraged to wear a mask.
A table has also been set aside for people to donate children’s toys so adults can bring them home to their children while they are practicing social distancing at home.
Meanwhile, TSA officers at T.F. Green Airport have been treating their fellow airport workers to free dinners.
TSA officers started a voluntary collection and used the money to support a local pizza business and have twice bought dinners for the airport community.
The TSA officers practiced social distancing during their delivery rounds and wore masks and gloves when they dropped off the pizza dinners to individuals who work for ABM (wheelchair passenger attendants) and ISS (environmental service provider) staff along with representatives from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.
The TSA workforce at Green Airport also remembered that the airport community supported the TSA employees who worked without paychecks during the government furlough, and decided to return the favor by donating some money to cover the cost of the pizzas.
“This pandemic is a challenging time for everyone and I’m proud that the TSA officers recognized the financial struggle of others within the airport community and found a way to express their gratitude for what the airport community did during the furlough to support TSA by paying it forward,” said Daniel Burche, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Rhode Island.
This story was updated on April 15 to include the efforts by TSA officers at Green Airport.