CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Outside a strip mall at busy Hull Street Road intersection, hundreds of people show up every week to a food pantry unlike any other.
Waymakers Foundation, located in the 360 West shopping center at the intersection of Hull Street Road and Turner Road in Chesterfield, provides the community with fresh ingredients, many of which are imported from Latin America.
“We offer fresh vegetables, and herbs to make tea, rice and beans,” says Waymakers Foundation founder and Executive Director Natasha Lemus.
Groups wait in a long line wrapped around Waymakers’ brick building to shop for culturally specific food with Latin American staples. Some shoppers asked to not be identified.
“As foreigners coming to this country, it’s tough to find a non-perishable item that is imported, and if they cannot meet ends, they have to pretty much think ‘Can we pay rent or should we buy groceries?’” Lemus said.
Lemus founded the Waymakers Foundation in March 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“As the families during the pandemic told me we are getting food that we do not consume. It was just like bringing me back to my childhood,” said Lemus, who also operates a tax business.
8News featured the Waymakers grocery deliveries in 2021 as Lemus and volunteers served members of Richmond’s Latino community who were struggling to get food. Lemus calls it a labor of love that’s personal since she immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was 8 years old.
Lemus also says she understands the disconnect of well-meaning food pantries that offer groceries that many Latino families don’t use.
“I always mention the story of how I walked into a church in the state of Maryland, where I originally arrived, and they gave me sourdough bread, and another bread that had different colors, and when I came home and I toasted it, I said ‘This is nasty, they gave me a bad bread,’ but I just didn’t know this type of bread,” Lemus said.
Three years later, with continued support from Feed More, grants and fundraisers, Lemus says Waymakers has provided more than 1.8 million pounds of food — and beyond groceries, they hold monthly resource fairs, fitness classes and salsa nights.
“We’re not only here to provide food. We are also here to provide resources so that they can move on,” Lemus said.
The Waymakers food pantry is open four days a week. No appointment is necessary, but families can only shop there for free every 16 days. The foundation is currently in need of a grant writer to help to them continue to seek money for their food pantry.