The Pittsburgh Steelers organization partnered with Minority Veterans of America (MVA) on Saturday to provide vital supplies to former service member impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MVA is a non-profit that aims to “create belonging and advance equity for underrepresented veterans, including women, people of color, LGBTQ, and religious minorities.”
Saturday’s “Supply Drop” was able to assist 50 families with essential items, such as milk, eggs and produce. Personal hygiene products were also some of the most highly-requested necessities.
“Our organization works with minority and underrepresented veterans and always has,” MVA’s executive director and co-founder Lindsay Church told Steelers.com. “Since the pandemic started many of the communities that we serve are being disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, job loss, homelessness, and many other things that we as a society haven’t been able to do much to support. We instituted a COVID-19 project that we were giving out direct funds to the community. We were able to give out money directly to the community to make sure people could still eat. We also did some other programs around the holidays to make sure people were able to support their families around those times.”
The concept of the “Supply Drop” began in Seattle, where MVA hosted events last fall. After the success they had in helping veterans, they decided to take the concept on the road and provide assistance across the country. Pittsburgh was their first stop.
“It’s partnerships with places like the Steelers that allow people to feel joy,” Church said. “It shows the community even when you are struggling, there is joy, there is dignity, there is the opportunity to still be a part of something. The partnership with the Steelers is important to get the word out. We just launched here March 1. To have the support of the Steelers is really neat for a small organization that just started here, to have that support right from the get-go because they understand.”
Not only did the families receive essential items, but they were also gifted some Steelers and MVA apparel as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exposed the many flaws and inequalities in our society, especially those that impact people of color. According to Church, events like Saturday’s are a small step in address those disparities.
“I think the most startling thing to me was half of them were from African-America or black veterans and at least two-thirds were from veterans of color,” said Church. “Black and African-American veterans only account for 10 to 20% of the entire community. To see 50% of who we are serving be of color, that is startling. National trends are showing veteran unemployment is on the rise for the fist time since 2008. In the first two months of the pandemic, it nearly quadrupled. Veterans of color, people of color have been the most likely to lose their jobs. And women of color have been the most likely of all to lose their jobs. We’re seeing these national trends. But for us to see such a large uptick, and disproportionate response, was startling and why we are doing things.”