Delivering Packages, Drumming Up Donations
Saluting the men and women of the trucking industry who kept America's essential goods flowing during the coronavirus pandemic.
His boss calls Reggie Barrows the 'mayor" of Falmouth, Mass., a term of endearment for someone whose packages are delivered with a friendly greeting. That popularity helped Barrows become a primary cheerleader for a Facebook photography project that earned $30,000 in donations for the local food pantry. Watch a video interview with Barrows here.
Heroes don’t always wear the beige coats and pants of firefighters, the blue uniforms of law enforcement or the pastel scrubs of medical workers.
Sometimes they wear purple and orange and sit behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.
FedEx Express courier Reggie Barrows, 62, is a man who went beyond the call of duty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did he work night and day delivering packages to residents in the small town of Falmouth, Mass., he also helped drum up interest in a donation drive for the local food pantry.
During the difficult early days of the pandemic, Barrows and local photographer Lee Geishecker did their best to ease some of the pain and boredom for their fellow residents stuck at home. For more than two months, nonessential businesses pretty much stayed closed in the town of 31,000 near Cape Cod, Geishecker said.
It was Geishecker, owner of VagabondView Photography, who created a local version of the national “Front Steps Project,” an effort to lift area residents out of the virus doldrums by taking family photos on front porches. It was Barrows who gave it a voice.
There was no charge for the photos. Instead, all that was asked of the families was a donation to the Falmouth Service Center.
Geishecker said from the beginning, she called on Barrows for assistance.
“Reggie happens to be one of the most recognized faces, along with his FedEx truck, in our little town of Falmouth,” she said. “Everybody knows Reggie.”
Geishecker said Barrows was in an essential business from day one of the public health emergency. So, while many were staying in, his local notoriety gave him a megaphone to help drum up support for the photography project. In a six-week time frame, Geishecker said she photographed more than 245 families using socially distanced photo sessions. The photo sessions generated more than $30,000 in donations for the food pantry, a local institution that also gives away clothes and helps local residents find jobs.
As Geishecker snapped photos, Barrows spread the word, and people wanted to jump on the bandwagon, she said.
Barrows said he was intrigued when he first noticed Geishecker taking photos of families on their front porches.
“I was wondering what she was doing,” Barrows said. Then, his support for the project began with a photo she took of him standing in front of his delivery van. The image was posted on Geishecker’s Facebook page and went viral.
This Barrows family photo warmed the hearts of viewers on Facebook. (VagabondView Photography; photo filtering applied by Transport Topics)
“Reggie’s post with the FedEx truck and his post with his family [photo] were the two biggest hits of the entire 245 families,” Geishecker said. “That’s what he means to the community. He is an unsung hero to this community. I’m not trying to be corny about this, but he was there with what people needed, when they needed it, and with a smile underneath his mask.”
“It’s a good cause,” Barrows said. “I’ve never thought of myself as a hero, but it’s mind-blowing that people feel that way. I’m happy to help people.”
Barrows also has helped out on projects ranging from the annual “Thanksgiving Day Chase the Turkey Race” to participating in a drive for a new library in West Falmouth.
His boss, Joe Zingarelli, operations manager for the FedEx warehouse facility in nearby West Yarmouth, said Barrows has spearheaded an annual walk to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease, and has been active in Toys for Tots at Christmas.
“He’s a stand-up guy in the community. He’s very, very involved in the community,” Zingarelli said. “His customers call him the mayor of Falmouth. ... On one occasion when I was in the vehicle with him, we’re driving through Falmouth. It’s amazing. Cars coming in the opposite direction are waving out their windows at him and honking their horns.”
Barrows said life in Falmouth changed when the pandemic first hit in March.
“It was creepy,” he said. “I love talking to people. But the strangest thing to me was that during this pandemic, people were hiding in their houses, peeking out their windows, and haven’t been coming up to the door. Sometimes it made me feel like I was the disease.”
Over his 28 years at FedEx, Barrows has seen his share of bad weather, poorly marked streets and houses, not to mention several dog bites.
Then came the pandemic.
“My typical work day has changed,” Barrows said. “I became an essential worker. My uniform now includes gloves and a mask. I used to deliver about 75 to 80 packages a day, including pickups. Now I average about 100 per day plus pickups. I feel like it’s peak season every day.”