The government may be open, but the shutdown hit federal workers hard.
And Alora Miller is still delivering care packages to those who are feeling the pinch of missed paychecks as they await their back pay.
Miller, 29, lives in Roxborough with her three children – 11- and 12-year-old daughters and a son, 4, who has Down syndrome. She sells cars for a living, commuting to Union, New Jersey.
When Miller heard that federal workers would not get their first January paycheck, she called her friends to organize a plan.
“I do know what it feels like to not know where your next meal is going to come from or your next paycheck,” Miller said. “When a grown man is looking you in the face and was like, ‘I got $20 until I don’t know when, and my car’s on (empty) and I’m hungry.’ When a grown man says that to you, something has to get done.”
Miller said she has crowdsourced nearly $1,500 in donations during the shutdown. Friends, family, and strangers sent funds online through “Cash App.” She uses the money to buy food, household and personal care items, sometimes driving to pick up goods from donors. The assemble care packages contain toilet paper, laundry detergent, body and dish soap, spaghetti sauce, noodles, tuna fish, a family pack of oatmeal or cereal.
“You get milk, bread, peanut butter, and jelly,” Miller continued. “So things that can feed a family for like three days.”
Some packages also include baby food, diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, men’s body wash and razors.
Miller gets referrals from direct messages on Instagram. Recently, she heard from an Internal Revenue Service worker.
“Her husband just had quadruple-bypass surgery in May, so he’s not working and they have a 3-year-old son,” Miller said. “There’s no money coming in, so we’re going to go and take her food and diapers and whatever she needs.”
Miller does deliveries on Sundays and Wednesdays … when she’s not selling cars. On the day of the interview for this story, Miller was with her son, Kevin, and friend Allyson Bremme in a minivan packed with supplies.
“We’re just here to help without conditions,” Bremme said. “We don’t ask people for IDs. We don’t ask for pay stubs. We’re just giving from the heart, and we’re hoping that whoever is receiving has the same intentions.”
Their first stop was Philadelphia International Airport around the 12:30 p.m. shift change that had several Transportation Security Administration officers standing at employee bus stops.
Stopping the minivan at Terminal C, Miller greeted Lashanda Palmer, a lead TSA officer, with a hug.
The mother of five who lives Lansdowne said she and other officers are burdened with bills.
“So whatever they need, just let us know. OK? I appreciate you guys so much,” Miller said to Palmer.
“No, we appreciate you,” Palmer responded.
After a hug goodbye, Miller closed the minivan’s trunk and set off toward her other stops.
“We’re going to go to the grocery store,” Miller said. “We got about $250 to shop with, and then we’re doing drop-offs. It is our mission. I would even say it is our duty to help the members of our community that are in need. That’s it.”