Tyrone Reese, the assistant director of food services at Goodman Community Center on Madison’s near east side, has been nominated for the New York Life foundation’s “Love Takes Action” award for the work that he and his team did throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to provide meals and groceries to children, families, seniors and others throughout Madison’s north and east sides.
“It’s kind of surreal because it just came out of nowhere. We’ve been doing the meal packs for over a year now. It came at a time when I wasn’t really expecting anything but I’m definitely grateful for the honor,” Reese tells Madison365.
New York Life agents and employees may nominate individuals for the Love Takes Action awards. There are 20 individuals from across the nation who embody the value of “agápē,” or “Love Taking Action,” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or to advance social and racial justice, who will be honored. Reese was nominated by Goodman CEO Letesha Nelson.
“Being nominated by the top person in our organization … that was something that really made me take a step back and really look at my job,” Reese says. “I go to work every day and I know that the work that I do every day is built into who I am. Taking that step back and having a chance to look at things from a different perspective shed some light on how much work we really do and how many lives we affect and touch by the work that we do here.
“Typically, my position is to make sure that everyone is provided with a healthy meal within our organization and our child care program – we have after school, we have middle school and various other programs and camps,” he adds. “My job is to make sure that all of the food is ordered and everybody gets to eat healthy and nutritious meals throughout the day.”
As the assistant director of food services at Goodman, Reese has plenty of responsibility to make sure that thousands of people are fed. When the pandemic came, they found that more and more families were in need.
“We started getting out 600 packs of meals and that really got the ball rolling. We basically created a system where we were prepping all of our food, cooling it, packaging it in styrofoam containers with labels on how to reheat the contents of each package,” Reese remembers. “We just kept growing from there as things started to pick up and things eventually began to open up and young kids got back in the center. We were able to support the kids here but there were still many families who wouldn’t allow their kids back to the center or were facing barriers – financial and other – so we kept the meal packs going.”
Reese played a critical role in building out and executing Goodman’s meal delivery program, which provided more than 150,000 meals to program participants, older adults and families from March of last year until April of this year, according to the Goodman Community Center.
“I was blown away by those numbers when I learned how many meals we had provided,” he says. “Just seeing the numbers, it really put everything into perspective. We really made a difference in this community.”
If Tyrone is selected as a winner of this award, the Goodman Community Center will receive $25,000 – one of 20 awards given nationwide by the New York Life Foundation.
“I know that with us getting more money, that would be a big deal and it will allow us to create more programs and do more things,” he says. “I’m actually looking to start a program to help feed the homeless in Madison because most of our programs and the things that we provide for the community are around youth or childcare or older adults. I just want to create a platform where we can get out and help other people in our community, especially the homeless. I would love if some of the money could be used to start a pilot program on that and see how that goes.”
Headquartered in New York City, New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States and one of the largest life insurers in the world.
“I’m really honored to be nominated for this award from New York Life. In the last two weeks, I’ve been getting tons of calls and messages of support,” Reese says. “It’s just amazing to feel this love. I know all of my instructors at Madison College – that’s where I did the culinary program – commented on my Facebook page. They were definitely very proud of me. It feels good.
“It’s surreal,” he adds. “I’m still taking everything in.”