This work came from my heart

This article by Brandon Milligan was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star, opens a new window on August 16, 2020.

Brandon Milligan, a delivery manager for the Pima County Public Library, is part of a team responsible for transporting requested library materials to other branches for library customers, as well as supplies, equipment and other items. But when the coronavirus hit, he was called upon to help feed the homeless and assist key agencies serving community members in need. He may be the ultimate example of pivoting in a COVID-19 world.

He did it gladly, representing the local library system well.

Here’s Milligan’s recollection of the whirlwind that has been the last several months:

On March 27, my deputy director called me into her office and said, “We need someone to go to Phoenix, pick up hand sanitizer, and deliver it to the Health Department.

I replied, “Say no more, I’m on my way.”

This was the beginning of me “chasing my tail” nonstop for the next two months. I would leave the Joel D. Valdez Main Library parking garage at 8 a.m. in a Ford transit van to go load 300 lunches from the Adult Detention Center and take them to the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I would go from there to the Sam Lena-South Tucson Library to water the bean, tomato, and flower seeds they had planted just before the closure. While watering, I might get a text from a colleague at the Pima County Health Department saying, “When you’re available, I have some deliveries and pickups for you.”

Some days, I might get back to Joel D. Valdez Main Library, jump in the delivery truck and head out to pick up food at Amphitheater High School for community distribution, or Locker Mates at the Community Food Bank.

One day, I unloaded five pallets of produce from the Food Bank that was delivered by the National Guard. Shortly after, I unloaded eight pallets of books sent to us from Baker & Taylor, a library book distributor. In normal times, these book shipments are sent directly to individual libraries, but during the COVID-19 closure, they came to Joel D. Valdez Main Library for internal distribution.

Beginning March 30, I traveled to the Adult Detention Center seven days a week to pick up 300 lunches made for the Casa Maria kitchen. In mid-April, the kitchen staff at the ADC asked if I could take approximately 300 loaves of bread and extra boxes of bananas before they spoiled. The next day, I loaded the usual lunches, 29 racks of bread and six boxes of bananas along for the ride to Casa Maria.

I did this for 62 of the 67 days the library teamed up with the ADC to provide this service. It felt good not only helping our community members experiencing homelessness, but also to be a familiar face. We enjoyed a little friendly banter each day and many gave me a hard time for leaving. Food was not the only thing I delivered.

Between March 27 and June 16, I coordinated and/or provided pickups and deliveries from several agencies outside of Pima County, including Pima Community College, Xerocraft Hackerspace, GAP Ministries and Tucson Medical Center.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have also worked alongside other Pima County departments in supporting our community. I have always been proud to know the work I do has a positive impact on the public, but nothing compares to these months.

It was very gratifying to be part of a group of folks who did whatever it took to pull the resources together to help our community through such an unprecedented situation.

On June 9, I was honored by District 2 Pima County Supervisor Ramón Valadez in the “Thank an Essential Worker” campaign. All of this work came from my heart. However, I do appreciate the acknowledgment.

Brandon Milligan is the delivery manager at Pima County Public Library, where he has worked for 18 years. He is a member of the LGBTQ+ Services Committee and the Bookbike team. In his spare time, Milligan is on two wheels, bicycling or motorcycling wherever the road takes him.