The REACH Project, an organization that aims to provide help to Texas A&M support staff and their families, has adapted their purpose to continue working during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, June 2, members of the REACH Project gathered in Lot 62 by Kyle Field to hand out meals to those in need. Max Gerall, a founder of the nonprofit, said they are focused on health and wellness by providing food from local restaurants such as Double Dave’s, Good Bull BBQ and Papa Perez. REACH normally pre-purchases meals from their partnered restaurants and gives the families the service coupons to pick up a fresh meal; however, the outbreak of COVID-19 caused the organization to adapt their usual delivery method into a drive-thru-like process for people to pick up family size meals.
Gerall made a special announcement during the June 2 food drive, revealing that The REACH Project has received enough funds to continue giving out meals through July 1, allowing more opportunities to distribute food.
Gerall said he was inspired to start the REACH Project through his friendship with a food service employee. The REACH Project received nonprofit status in 2018, and Gerall said the organization is still focused on providing food in the midst of the pandemic.
“This was our COVID pivot, if you will,” Gerall said. “We spent a lot of time in the community when we realized that support staff were starting to get laid off, and we started asking questions. We wanted to know what was going on and how we could help.”
Gerall said a main reason REACH was started was to help the “Invisible Aggies,” a term used to describe the many service employees at Texas A&M. As a result of the pandemic, many service employees at A&M have been laid off.
“The term ‘Invisible Aggie’ is nothing more than a means to empower and shine light onto those who are so valuable in our community,” Gerall said. “I believe that the service employees on campus are underappreciated and undervalued, and oftentimes go unrecognized and unnoticed. The term ‘Invisible Aggie’ is a term of solidarity and strength, showing them that we are together and we are going to help them be visible.”
There were many problems facing members of the community, Gerall said. Among those problems were trouble with housing and rent and lack of access to technology to further education.
“We also heard food and security concerns, but we were like ‘we have to pick one,’ so we chose the one we could have the biggest impact with,” Gerall said. “So from there we said we were going to do family meals.”
Industrial distribution senior Austin Thumasathit said he recently joined the REACH Project because he received an email from a friend about the internship opportunities there were. He will be joining as an operations intern for the organization starting this summer.
“This past semester I was taking [a] strategic philanthropy [course],” Thumasathit said. “So, I was able to see what I was learning in class and be able to apply that directly to an internship, working and serving the community around me.”
Natalie Drew is the HR Manager for Chartwells, the A&M dining services contractor that provides food to the various dining halls and restaurants on campus. As a result of COVID-19, some Chartwells employees have lost their employment, and now need help paying for basic needs such as food. Drew is still a current employee at Chartwells and said she enjoys seeing people she has worked with in the past, and is happy to help them during these trying times.
“I love seeing the looks on their faces,” Drew said. “They genuinely appreciate it and I love the vision of what Max has for the future of the REACH Project.”
The REACH Project will continue to distribute meals in Lot 62 by Kyle Field once a week. To learn more about REACH or to find out how you can help, visit its Facebook page @AgsREACH or its Go Fund Me page.