Food donations pour in for Dulles employees laid off during pandemic

tsa toy table
Lead TSA Officer Cissy Myers (left) and TSA Officer Denise Mesina staff the table with toys that have been donated for individuals to take home to their children. (Courtesy TSA/Philip Chandler)

The Transportation Security Administration at Dulles International Airport is making sure airport employees suffering through a loss or shortage of work during the coronavirus pandemic won’t have to wonder where they’re getting their next meal.

Extremely slow air travel caused by the public health crisis is having a ripple effect throughout the industry, but TSA employees are helping out by setting up a food pantry inside the Virginia airport.

“There’s been a large number of workers who’ve either been furloughed or laid off,” said Eric Chin, assistant federal security director for screening at Dulles. “It has been a devastating impact to the community.”

The food pantry first opened last weekend and is open every day of the week for eight hours per day.

It is stocked with nonperishable foods including soups, cereal, oatmeal, pasta and peanut butter to assist the airport contractors and other employees affected.

A table has also been set up for people to donate toys for parents who have young kids at home.

“We figured we would do what we could do to give back and help,” said Chin.

One TSA officer staffs the pantry, and a maximum of four people are allowed to go in due to social distancing guidelines.

Most of what is in the pantry has been donated by TSA employees, but members of the public are encouraged to donate as well.

“Anyone can donate, even if they don’t work at the airport,” said TSA officer Cissy Myers.

The TSA is trying to show its appreciation for what happened last year when the airport community banded together and arranged donations for employees who had to work without a paycheck during the government shutdown.

In the middle of that shutdown, TSA employees were among the more than 420,000 federal employees told they needed to work without pay.

The key difference between the government shutdown and this current situation is that employees who worked without pay were eventually paid, while those who lose their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic will never see those paychecks.

“We were extremely appreciative for what the airport community as a whole did for TSA employees during the furlough,” Myers said.

“Additionally, we learned a lot during the government shutdown about what people need in addition to food. People need toiletries. They need things like laundry soap, toothpaste and diapers in addition to food, so we are looking to provide those items as well.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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