NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - CBS stations across the country are dedicating a day to telling stories about Americans finding common ground.
We're calling it "Unifying America."
CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas introduces us to an organization bridging the gap when people have nowhere else to turn.
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 people can see your smile through your eyes," said Taina Rodiguez, associate director of Food and Dignity Services.
POTS opened in 1982 as a soup kitchen, but the pandemic has more than doubled the number of people needing a hot meal. Last year alone, 2.3 million meals were served.
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"October through December was our highest demand. COVID is going on for a long time but people are finding that they need food. The jobs are still not there," said Executive Director Christina Hanson.
Hanson showed CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas bags prepared for the food pantry that lined a wall in what used to be the dining room.
All of the food there will be distributed this week.
"There are many people who came to us who had absolutely nothing. They had rent coming due, they had Con Ed bills coming. They needed to eat," Hanson said.
Local, federal and state aid is not enough, challenging the the organization to live up to its name. POTS is an acronym which stands for being "part of the solution."
So many in the 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 – helping to link them to various programs, which include distributing clothing and other essential items to providing legal services.
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"There's a great amount of anxiety and fear out in the community and they have to recognize during the pandemic people have been hit by a cascading series a losses and threats," said supervising attorney Elizabeth Maris.
For clients like Sylvia Santos, POTS is bridging the gap.
"They don't point [down] to you about your situation. It's the same heart for everybody," Santos said.
Santos currently lives in a shelter, and says she's on the path to permanent housing.
"I love the people here. Thank God I found it. Trust me, they helped me a lot," Santos said.
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.
POTS relies on food pantries and donations to meet the growing need. For more information about how you can help, CLICK HERE.
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