WASHINGTON — Airlines struggle to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic and many of those who work for them are left struggling, too.
To help the thousands of airline workers impacted by strict travel restrictions and limited flight, Transportation Security Administration agents at Dulles International Airport have created a food pantry stocked full of canned goods as well as toiletries.
Eric Chin is the TSA Assistant Federal Security Director for Screening at the airport. He said the idea for the pantry stemmed from last year's efforts during the federal government shutdown.
Many from the airport community donated diapers, gift cards and food to TSA employees that worked without a paycheck, but who were eventually paid for the time worked. Chin said that the difference now is many airport contractors and employees are laid off for good, or had their hours significantly cut.
"During the furlough, we set up a TSA food pantry and the community donated in mass," Chin said.
"The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and vendors at the airport purchased meals for the TSA officers during that time," he continued. "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 pantry opened up inside Dulles near the arrivals level of the terminals on April 5 and is open eight hours a day, seven days a week. Everything from condiments, oatmeal, canned goods and even some toiletries are available.
And the space is clean with hand sanitizer stations inside and outside the pantry’s entrance. In order to help practice social distancing, only one TSA officer staffs the pantry and only up to four people are allowed to enter at a time. Pantry visitors are encouraged to wear a mask.
Cissy Myers is a lead TSA officer who has been working at Dulles since 2006. She said she's extremely grateful for the help that TSA agents were given during that government furlough and said the effort helped her realize how badly people need assistance beyond food.
"We learned a lot during the government shutdown about what people need in addition to food," Myers said. "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."
Some airline workers are even offering funds to help purchase groceries for the pantry, Myers said. A table has also been set aside for people to donate children’s toys so adults can bring them home to their kids while they are practicing social distancing at home.
Even if you don't work at the airport, you can still donate.