By Janet Bagley, Connecting NowFaith
And don’t forget to do good and to share it with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God: Hebrews 13:16
The COVID-19 pandemic is more than just a health crisis. It is having a ripple effect, impacting nonprofits and their work within Indian River and St. Lucie counties. As nonprofits respond to this new threat, many are struggling with how they can continue to help the people that depend so heavily on their assistance. There has never been a playbook for this type of situation, and nonprofits are adapting to the new reality.
CAMP HAVEN, VERO BEACH Camp Haven provides shelter, food, clothing, vocational training, and life skills classes that aid in the transitional process for homeless men in Indian River County. Executive Director Chuck Bradley said the organization is continuing to provide assistance through the use of technology, relying on computers to deliver some of its life skills classes and counseling. “We modified our psychological counseling so we can now use Zoom to communicate with one another,” said Bradley.
“All of our clients have access to computers, so we’re able to hold one-on-one counseling sessions via the computer. And we’re encouraging our people to watch different TED Talks, and are meeting with an A/V consultant to install new equipment such as a microphone system in our new building.” THE SOURCE, VERO BEACH There have been a lot of changes at The Source since the COVID-19 crisis began, with the organization having to suspend dining service for meals, as well as its catering operation. Executive Director Tony Zorbaugh said the nonprofit is offering its walk-up lunch service, and increased dinners to seven days a week. It still delivers more than 500 meals, despite having lost 99 percent of its delivery volunteers because most are seniors who are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. All of the staff at The Source have continued in their positions, but Zorbaugh tries to send everyone home by mid-day.
“We’re trying to get everyone out the door by 12:30 p.m., so they can go home and be safe and healthy,” said Zorbaugh. “Individuals can still make appointments with us to do laundry or take a shower, and masks are provided.”
THE BUGGY BUNCH, VERO BEACH
Normal programming at The Buggy Bunch is on hold during the COVID-19 crisis, but the organization is also using technology like Zoom to hold its Bible studies twice a week. One area not affected is The Buggy Bunch’s Diaper Closet, where low-income moms can obtain diapers, wipes, and formula for their babies.
“We’re seeing 30 to 40 percent increases from clients who come to the diaper closet,” said Executive Director Tara Wright. “We received funds from the United Way for diapers, wipes, and formula, and we’re serving moms in the community at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.”
SALVATION ARMY, VERO BEACH To accommodate the growing need for food, the Salvation Army is providing food through its mobile food pantry. The number of families being helped by the Salvation Army has jumped from 25 families to more than 300 families in recent weeks since many families have lost their source of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization is also providing MRE’s to the homeless and making home deliveries to high-risk individuals and homebound seniors, according to Social Services Program Coordinator Kayla Moore.
“Our number one priority right now is making sure people are getting food,” said Moore. The organization has also added a second feeding program in the North County area and is providing a food pantry at the Lakeside Fellowship Church on Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon.
UNITED AGAINST POVERTY, VERO BEACH Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, United Against Poverty is continuing to offer its essential services during this time of crisis, according to its website. The grocery program on the main campus is operating, and there is a vigorous sanitation protocol in place to keep the facility clean. There has been an increase in the need for public computer access, and work stations have been moved 6-feet apart to meet social distancing requirements. Each station is sanitized after each use.
Treasure Coast Community Health’s clinic at UP is also operating to meet the medical needs of low-income families, although no COVID testing is performed.
OPERATION HOPE, FELLSMERE Operation Hope provides a variety of services to the needy throughout the year, none more important than its food distribution that takes place twice a month. But distributing food while adhering to social distance requirements is tricky, so Operation Hope president Jesse Zermeno and his volunteers now deliver food to waiting cars.
“We normally provide food for about 200 people,” said Zermeno. “But at our recent event, we served 1,200 people. We anticipate the crowds will grow longer as COVID affects more and more families in the county.”
SARAH’S KITCHEN OF THE TREASURE COAST, PORT ST. LUCIE CEO Julie Summers of Sarah’s Kitchen said the number of people her organization is serving since the COVID-19 crisis began has increased every week, and the nonprofit has had to switch to handing out meals to those in need. Four of its five feeding sites have remained open for meal distribution, and the organization also does a mobile feeding program on the streets of Fort Pierce.
“Normally, our mission is to have people come in, get a hot meal, sit down and socialize,” said Summers. “But with COVID-19, that wouldn’t be wise to have people sitting near each other, so we’re just handing out meals to-go.”