HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Richmond International Airport Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent Crystal Beswick left work Monday with a box full of donated goods for her family. Beswick is among the more than 100 local TSA workers going into a fifth week without a paycheck because of the government shutdown.
"They are delivering diapers, baby wipes, pastas, cereal and graham crackers and gummy snacks for the kids," Beswisk, who has a 9-year-old son, said. "Just to help out because times are hard. We aren't getting paid so every little bit helps."
Thanks to community organizations and businesses like Wegmans, the TSA break room at Richmond International Airport was packed with boxes of canned good and toiletries.
Upstairs in a conference room, airport colleague Jeanine Michele was busy preparing a potluck meal for federal workers.
She began collecting donations last week from area restaurants like Stella's and DeFazio's Catering. She also used donated money to buy food from Costco. She started cooking at 4 a.m. Monday.
"I see the TSA agents every day when I go to work and I feel so bad for them," Michele said. "They've been such good sports about it and so nice that I wanted to do something nice for them."
Michelle works for Delaware North, an airport restaurant that has offered free breakfast to TSA workers. Southwest Airlines plans to host a breakfast later this week and is also participating in a food drive.
According to Scott Robinson, president of AFGE Local 448, FeedMore's mobile pantry unit planned to be at the airport on January 28 to help distribute canned goods to federal workers.
TSA agents are among the lowest paid on the federal pay scale.
While managers are trying to keep morale up during the government shutdown, it has become more difficult as some workers have called out sick because they are unable to afford the transportation to work. Some Richmond TSA agents commute an hour or more to work.
According to the Transportation Security Administration, one in 10 TSA agents is calling out nationally, creating longer lines at some airports across the country. Some 40 airports nationwide showed strain processing passengers this past weekend.
Richmond airport officials said they haven't seen an impact in Richmond yet, but that could change as the government shutdown lingers.
"In the end you're sacrificing which bill you're going to pay," one Richmond TSA worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said. "Which one is more important right now - the lights, car insurance, car note. Some people live paycheck to paycheck and it's just hard right now. It's frustrating."
For more information on how you can help contribute to local TSA agents, send an email here.