CBS stations across the country are dedicating a day to telling stories about Americans finding common ground. We're calling this series of reports "Unifying America." CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas introduces us to an organization filling in those empty spaces when people have nowhere else to turn.
- CBS stations across the country are dedicating a day to tell stories about Americans who are finding common ground. We're calling this series of reports "Unifying America." Tonight, CBS News' Aundrea Cline-Thomas introduces us to an organization that's filling in those empty spaces when people have nowhere else to turn.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: The last year at POTS, a nonprofit in the Bronx, has been a labor of love.
- Even though your mask is on, it's making sure that people see your smile through your eyes.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: POTS opened in 1982 as a soup kitchen.
- Nice and hearty, it's cold out, with some white rice and some vegetables on the side.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: But the pandemic has more than doubled the number of people needing a hot meal. 2.3 million meals were served last year alone.
- October through December was our highest demand. So it's not-- I mean, COVID is going on for a long time. But people are still finding that they need food. The jobs are still not there.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Christina Hanson is the executive director. She showed us banks prepared for the food pantry that lined a wall in what used to be the dining room. All of this will be distributed this week.
CHRISTINA HANSON: There are many people who came to us who had absolutely nothing. They had rent coming due. They had ConEd bills coming. They needed to eat.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Federal, state, and local aid is not enough, challenging the organization to live up to its name. POTS is an acronym, which stands for being Part Of The Solution. So many in this community were already on the brink before the crisis. The pandemic just pushed them over the edge.
Many clients are first introduced to POTS through its food services program. But the staff hopes that's only the beginning of helping to link them to various programs, which includes distributing clothes and other essential items, to providing legal services. Elizabeth Maris is a supervising attorney.
ELIZABETH MARIS: There's a great amount of anxiety and fear out in the community. And they have to recognize that during the pandemic, people have been hit by kind of cascading series of losses and threats.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: For clients like Sylvia Santos, POTS is bridging the gap.
SYLVIA SANTOS: They don't point to you about your situation. No, it's the same heart for everybody.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Santos currently lives in a shelter. And she says she's on the path to permanent housing.
SYLVIA SANTOS: I love the people here. Thank God I found them, trust me. They helped me a lot.
AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Despite the pandemic, every day staff and volunteers come together to help a hurting community, hoping for the day when their services are no longer necessary. Aundrea Cline-Thomas, CBS 2 News.