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Hometown Heroes Parade: How Fresh Direct Food Delivery Workers Helped Feed Neighbors In Need

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City honored its hometown heroes with a ticker-tape parade Wednesday through the Canyon of Heroes.

Some of the first things that come to mind when we think of essentials are some of the most basic human needs, like food and water. CBS2's Andrea Grymes heard from workers who risked their lives to make sure there were meals on the table.

In March 2020, as the pandemic took hold of the city, New Yorkers were told to stay home. But the 3,000 employees of grocery delivery service Fresh Direct knew their neighbors throughout the five boroughs still needed to have food on their table.

"We really invested in the safety of our customers, the safety of our community and the safety of employees," said Larry Scott Blackmon, vice president of public affairs.

WATCH: UPS Among Delivery Workers Honored At Hometown Heroes Parade 

He said taking care of those who couldn't fend for themselves was one of their first initiatives.

"We were extremely surprised at the scope of the need. We did not know that. None of us had been through a pandemic in our lifetime," he said. "So when the congregant settings were closed and the food pantries were closing, the need spiked. While we did everything we could by moving 4 million pounds of food and half a million food boxes, we knew that wasn't enough."

There were regular and new customers who viewed home food delivery as critical to staying safe and healthy. Eight miles of conveyers helped keep orders in track.

"Our heroes took every precaution and every step to ensure that service delivery would continue throughout the pandemic, and we were proud to say that we didn't close. We were here 24/7," he said.

In fact, some even found a silver lining.

"We continued to hire throughout the pandemic," said Scott Blackmon.

"It was a difficult time, but we did our best to get, to serve each and every customer," transportation operation supervisor Tashanah LaForest added.

For the past decade, LaForest has been a transportation operation supervisor with Fresh Direct.

"I am one of those people who have been working day in and day out through the pandemic," she told Grymes. "On a normal basis, you wouldn't think about."

She said the fear and uncertainty of the time and the stress of a demanding workload meant employees had to be there for each other more than ever.

"We had a tight bond before, but it has grown enormously. Now we're even tighter," she said.

The work family bonded in an uncertain time. Now, they get to celebrate together in a most unique fashion.

LaForest was able to bring her 15-year-old son, Jerimiah, on the float with her.

"It will be an experience he will never forget," she said.

That's the point of all New York coming together -- for the people who have worked tirelessly in the darkest days to be recognized and know there is a grateful city cheering them on.

"The parade, personally for me, is like a light at the end of the tunnel," said LaForest. "We had a tough time through the pandemic, and the parade kind of puts the pandemic behind us."

"If you're going to be in a ticker-tape parade, be in the one that means 'Thank you for the work you do on a 9-to-5 basis.' Those dirty jobs that people might not be aware of but makes sure that New Yorkers have food on their plate for the families at night," Scott Blackmon added.

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