‘Trying the best I can to survive’: Tabitha’s Way Food Pantry sees increased need during COVID-19 pandemic

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AMERICAN FORK (ABC4 News) – Volunteers packed and delivered dozens of food boxes for clients at Tabitha’s Way Food Pantry Friday.

Each one of those clients has their own unique story like a hotel front desk agent named Koren Palagonia who says she struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was full time and the hours cut back,”  Palagonia told ABC4 News. “I also work over at Lagoon and they’re not open neither so that’s a whole ‘nother income that I’m not getting right now.”

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Koren’s husband sells his plasma to bring in some money. Koren works part-time at the hotel while living in another one.

“We lost our apartment so we’re living in a hotel. So that’s very expensive. It’s like almost $400 a week and I’m the only one that works so it’s pretty hard,” she said. “I have a car note, car insurance, phone bill, life insurance, health insurance and rent, it comes out to quite a bit but I’m trying the best I can to survive.”

These days most of the couple’s food comes from Tabitha’s Way.

“It helps quite a bit,” she says as a volunteer hands her a potted flowering plant. “Just knowing that they’re here for you and then just have everything that you could possibly want is awesome.”

Al Switzler, is the Co-Founder of Tabitha’s Way which has another location in Spanish Fork to serve southern Utah County. He says that demand has increased 20% since the start of the pandemic while donations and volunteers have decreased.

“Our mission is to help individuals and families through tough times, not people,” Switzler said. “We help individuals and families and we know their names and we know their stories.”

And how does Koren plan to get through this pandemic?

“Pray,” she said with a laugh, “A lot of praying.”

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