MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In its 91 years of serving the community, the Hallie Q. Brown Center in St. Paul has never experienced so much need from so many people. The food bank has seen a 4,000% increase in clients since March.

Thanks to WCCO viewers, they’ve been able to meet their needs. But with the holidays getting closer, requests for help are going up.

Volunteers were busy unloading trucks outside the St. Paul charity Friday. The goods they packed will be used to fill the hundreds of food baskets that will be going to families across the metro.

“There will be 750 families that will not go without food this holiday season,” Dawn Selle, director of external affairs, said.

Selle says last year the center handed out 250 boxes of food, and the increase proves more families are in need.

Members of Firefighters United St. Paul are helping with donations and unloading the goods. They know firsthand how families are fighting to keep food on the table.

“We see a lot of hardships when we go into homes to help people, and this is the smallest gesture of what we can do to help people throughout this difficult time,” Joshua Garbanda said.

Executive director Jonathan Palmer says partners like Cub Foods, HyVee, and the African American Leadership Council are just a few groups helping to make ends meet, but more is needed.

“One of the greatest thing that’s happening is nonprofits are working together across geographic boundaries, helping each other. If we get more of something in, we’re reaching out to Keystone, Neighborhood House and Prism, saying ‘Hey, we got some extra. Do you guys need this?'” Palmer said. “The shelves are empty now, and we’ve got the baskets going out this weekend for Thanksgiving. But right after Thanksgiving we get into the winter holidays, and people need food, and people need help and support.”

For now they are concentrating on helping families this Thanksgiving but concerned about what lies ahead.

“We’re bracing ourselves for what the next four weeks will look like,” Palmer said. “People will have greater need. People have already reached out to us and said, ‘I’m going to be furloughed. I’m being laid off from my job. What can I do? How can I get some help?'”

Reg Chapman