Connect. Share. Give: Meet 2 dedicated Philabundance volunteers making sure others don't go hungry

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Dana Cooper has been volunteering at Philabundance every Tuesday and Friday morning for 11 years.

"If I have food on my table, I want to make sure my friends and neighbors also have food on their table," said Cooper.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, he now lives in New Castle, Delaware, but still, he makes the twice-weekly commute to South Philadelphia.

"I get up about 5(a.m.) to drive an hour to come down here to help out," Cooper says.

"You got enough help outside?" Cooper calls to Jack Bradley, a fellow volunteer.

"It's a great thing that you're actually taking food to people in the need," Bradley says.

After a career as an engineer, Bradley started volunteering after he retired about 1.5 years ago.

"It's just something I wanted to give back," Bradley says, "You know, you have a bucket list when you retire. I want to spend some time giving back. I want to spend some time traveling."

When COVID-19 hit, they did not skip a beat.

"The need for the food didn't stop," Bradley said.

It has risen dramatically, with Feeding America reporting a 60% increase in people showing up at food banks during the pandemic.

The volunteers work in what's known as the Philabundance HUB, prepping food that they then distribute to hunger relief agencies throughout the region.

"We pull up here, and they just load us up," says Tyrone Ricks, who collects the food for a group in Chester, Pa.

"To me, they're our heroes because they're on the front line," said Donnamarie Valenza, a distribution manager for Philabundance. "We would not be able to do it without them."

For the volunteers, it is time well-spent, and they say they get as much as they give.

"This type of thing here will last me for the rest of my life. I can look back and say that I did my part," said Cooper. "It gives me a great feeling right here in my heart, I can feel it."

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