MILTON – Desiree Downs thought more than the normal number of people were waiting when she pulled a food cooperative truck onto the parking lot of Catholic Charities’ office in the Dover area last month.
Then she found out they were not all participants in the coop from the Dover area. Her family was there, along with state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn of Georgetown, a WBOC television crew, and some coop participants from the 10 sites Downs visits in Sussex County.
They had gathered to honor Downs as she was announced as a 2018 Delmarva Jefferson Awards recipient. The awards program is sponsored in part by WBOC.
“They surprised me,” Downs said. “Apparently, my clients wrote letters, and I guess my family, too,” in support of her nomination for the community service award.
Downs has worked at Casa San Francisco for 14 years, currently as Food Program supervisor. Besides the food cooperative, she also manages an emergency food pantry and a program for seniors in coordination with the Food Bank of Delaware.
Alan Southard, Sussex Services manager for Catholic Charities, said Downs provides more than 10,000 pounds of food each month to people who meet certain income guidelines in Sussex and Kent counties of Delaware.
When any of them call or come to Casa San Francisco, they request to speak or see Downs. If she is unavailable, and someone else assists the client, “They have to know that Desiree said it is okay,” said Jennifer Parsons, Catholic Charities’ Basic Needs manager for Sussex County.
“I like the people,” Downs said. Still, she thinks she is just doing her job. “I think anyone can do the same thing I do.”
While others might be able to manage the basics of Downs’ job, she is more than “just the truck driver,” according to Parsons. “She has a long-lasting relationship with her clients.”
Parsons knows that Downs offers clients more than just food. She’s there with a smile, always asking how they are doing, and what is going on in their lives.