They strolled into the College Area Vons with their yellow shirts and positivity in their hearts.
Three members of the Padres Volunteer Team had an assignment.
“I just wanted to give back to the community,” said Chris Sessions.
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“I literally cry because the people are so appreciative,” said Louise Harkness standing beside Sessions.
“We’re picking up groceries that have been prepared for a cancer patient who is best if they stay at home,” continued Sessions.
The volunteers usually help all year long with fundraisers supported by the San Diego Padres, including the annual Padres Pedal the Cause to support cancer patients and research.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has derailed many of their opportunities to volunteer. So, the Padres Volunteer Team has taken up a new calling: Delivering groceries to cancer patients.
“It makes me feel grateful that I am able to help somebody that can’t go out,” said Harkness.
The program is called Groceries 4 Good. Groceries are purchased thanks to generous support from the San Diego Padres, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, U.S. Bank, and Albertsons and Vons.
“It makes me feel really satisfied,” said Artea Dunn, an Assistant Store Director with the grocery store chains.
Dunn said people who are undergoing cancer treatments can register or make donations on the Groceries 4 Good website. Their order will be filled by Vons or Albertsons employees and it will be ready to go when volunteers arrive.
“[It’s] very rewarding, just to be able to give back,” said Dunn.
The Padres Volunteer Team then delivers the food safely and left on doorsteps.
“They open the door and their eyes light up and they’re all full of smiles,” said Sessions.
“And they are so appreciative when you come to the door with their groceries that it just steels your heart,” added Harkness.
Thursday, they delivered an order to Tammy Blackburn.
“If that does not hit you in your heart, I don’t know what will,” said Blackburn, who is isolating herself as she undergoes treatments for stage four breast cancer.
Those treatments weaken her immune system, making her more at risk of not being able to fight off the coronavirus.
Blackburn, a former San Diego State basketball standout and a current school administrator, said she’s not messing around with the virus.
“Cancer with COVID is like double the challenge,” she said. “It’s already difficult enough.”
Blackburn said she’s grateful for the deliveries and the visits with the volunteers who step back on the sidewalk as she gets her groceries.
“Humans are not meant to be isolated,” said Blackburn. “It still is incredibly meaningful.”
“I have goosebumps right now,” said Padres Pedal the Cause Executive Director Anne Marbarger. “It’s hard to describe how good that makes you feel just to be able to provide a little bit of positive spark in a time when it’s really difficult.”
Marbarger refocused her attention from Pedal the Cause to Groceries 4 Good when she learned about a need for groceries for cancer patients.
“It’s so cool that the Padres are engaged,” she said.
That engagement with all the sponsors and the volunteers means people like Blackburn can focus on their own battles with cancer, and not the coronavirus, too.
“It’s a little challenging,” confessed Blackburn.