In the midst of the recently-announced layoffs at The Walt Disney Company, one Orlando organization is working to help those affected – the Cast Member Pantry.
Cast Member Pantry was started by Emily Lartigue, who is a cast member herself. When the Disney College Program was cut back in March due to COVID-19, Lartigue was helping students move out and noticed that many of them had loaded up on groceries that they wouldn’t be able to take with them. Rather than let the items go to waste, Lartigue kept them with the hopes of getting them back in the hands of cast members in need. The collection quickly outgrew her garage, and has blossomed into the charitable effort seen all over the Disney corner of social media today.
The organization allows for furloughed cast members in need of groceries to receive food essentials once a month at no cost to them. Each set of groceries comes in a reusable bag, and includes foods that can easily make meals for four people, in addition to breakfast and snack options. As of now, the Pantry is specifically open to Disney cast members only, both current and former.
“Response from everyone online and all over the world has been incredible the past few days to witness. We’ve seen people reach out from Canada and the U.K., all sorts of different places just wanting to reach out and lend a helping hand at this time,” said Lartigue. “It really shows that the Disney community steps up to help one another out.”
To receive the goods, cast members simply have to email [email protected] and fill out the survey sent in an automatic reply to set an appointment. After that, the cast member will receive an email with the day and time set for their pick-up. Groceries are handed out every Saturday, but appointments are required.
Just after the announcement that Disney would be laying off 28,000 cast members at all levels of the Parks, Experiences, and Products segment of the company, the Pantry shared that they would now be aiding those affected by the layoffs.
In addition, work is being done to support Disneyland cast members as well, according to a post shared on Thursday, Oct. 1, on the Cast Member Pantry Facebook page:
But the Cast Member Pantry isn’t the only charitable effort stepping up to help furloughed and laid-off cast members in their time of need. Many members of the Disney community are rallying together to offer aid.
For example, @michaeldoesdisney on Instagram, who was a senior corporate recruiter before being affected by a COVID-19 layoff himself, is offering his time for laid-off cast members to send him their resumes and cover letters for critique and edits. If you were affected by the Disney layoffs, you can send Michael your materials at [email protected]
Dan Cockerell, former vice president of Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, is teaming up with his dad Lee Cockerell, former vice president of Walt Disney World, to offer free webinars sharing advice and stories of “life after Disney.” If you were affected by the layoffs, you can reach out with your questions on Facebook or at [email protected]
Bloggers Sarah and Tom Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog are also lending a helping hand. The pair have created a virtual fundraising drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida as it helps to support those affected by the economic challenges resulted from COVID-19. So far, they have raised nearly $40,000. You can donate and share your support here.
If you know of additional ways we can all help support cast members during this difficult and challenging time, please leave a comment below.