United Airlines recently transformed one of its cargo facilities at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) into a food-distribution center to aid the Houston Food Bank’s efforts to feed families in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

The idea to convert the cargo space came from one employee, Mark Zessin, a United baggage team member who spends his days making sure customers’ belongings get where they need to. Now, he’s leading a team of hardworking employee volunteers at the bustling facility.

“We take great pride in having employees throughout the United network who are always looking for ways to make every action count, even in these extremely trying times,” said Sharon Grant, vice president of Global Community Engagement at United. “This is a great example of the power in working together with our nonprofit partners on addressing their challenges and creating unique solutions to ensure the community is served.”

Employee volunteers in Houston are receiving, packing, sorting and distributing food and other items to families in need. To date, employees have sorted and bagged nearly 160,000 pounds of food and household products and volunteered nearly 5,000 hours.

“United and its team members are selflessly stepping up to help their neighbors by adapting their cargo center to be a produce-inspecting, sorting and packing operation. Much of this food will be used at our new large-scale distribution model called ‘Neighborhood Super Site’ which expects to see 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles each event. Volunteers will also pick up product at the cargo center to then make safe, no-contact deliveries to reach households that must stay quarantined for their safety and the safety of others,” said Brian Greene, president and CEO of the Houston Food Bank. “This assistance to serve the most vulnerable population during this pandemic is amazing. United is a dedicated and important partner of the Houston Food Bank, and we will not forget this generosity.”

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