What a difference a year makes. Around this time last year, Adam and his wife Elischeba had just returned from a trip visiting family in Ivory Coast, a country located in Western Africa. Coronavirus was barely heard of at that time. Adam shared that New Year’s is a very big celebration Abidjan, the capitol, and he and his wife attended a gathering of 20,000 people – shaking hands, hugging, kissing each other on the cheek. “If people did that now, you would probably get thrown in jail!” Adam joked.
Also at around this time last year, Adam and his team set up a Pop Up food distribution at the Rambling River Center in Farmington. The only grocery store in Farmington had just gone out of business, making the only food access option a gas station. While that distribution location closed due to the pandemic, The Open Door continues to support Farmington by setting up monthly distributions at Spruce Place Apartments, which is just blocks away from Rambling River Center.
Adam celebrates three years with The Open Door this month. While his title is the same – Mobile Program Manager – he says the work is now completely different, and COVID-19 is the main reason. Through the years Adam has held many different jobs – as a mechanic, working construction, kennel lead and dogsled musher, deckhand in the Pacific and Caribbean, and as a Wilderness Inquiry guide for about eight years after college. “When you guide trips, it is risk management 24/7. You wake up in the middle of the night wondering if everyone is in their tent and if everyone is ok.” Now the pandemic has him constantly thinking about the safety of his team, volunteers, and clients. “It is continually tough. It is sad [to mandate] distance between the staff and volunteers because we can’t spend time near each other, we can’t touch anybody.”
Some of Adam’s favorite moments at TOD include “a flood of memories – a lot of laughing, a lot of me and [fellow Mobile Pantry staffer] Sara laughing. Seeing goofy stuff showing up at food rescue such as an iPhone XS in mint condition – not a scratch on it. I went through a lot of trouble trying to find that owner.”
He has built relationships with clients, including an Algerian immigrant he met at the Cedar Knolls Pop Up Pantry site in Apple Valley. She worked as a psychologist in Algeria and speaks three languages, including French, which Adam also speaks. “I was able to connect with her in a way that’s from home,” he says. Over the past two years, Adam and his wife have become friends with the client and her family and watched their three young children grow. This client once wrote a note of gratitude, photocopied it and handed it out to everyone at a Pop Up Produce distribution: “Hi, as someone you serve every week I would like to express how grateful I am for your help. The time and effort you contribute to this act is very appreciated. The way you greet every car with smiles is marvelous. You truly make a difference.”
Given Adam’s enthusiasm for food, it is no surprise he works for a hunger relief organization. His favorite food from childhood is his mom’s quiche, and “now anything my wife makes is my favorite food.” One of his favorite dishes from the Ivory Coast includes fried plantains and grilled fish topped with a salsa of onion, tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, oil and vinaigrette. “You just eat that whole thing and man oh man – whooo!” he says.
When asked if there is anything he would like to change about The Open Door, Adam’s response is “I would love for COVID to go away, for crying out loud, and for us to go back to full choice model. There it is. I want people to pick their own food because I like to pick my own food.”
We at The Open Door are grateful for Adam’s leadership and ability to guide our work and, through this pandemic crisis, serve thousands of more people in need. Adam is critical to our effort in meeting a rising demand for food support in Dakota County. We are so glad he is part of The Open Door team!