September 27th, 2019
Provisions made for pandemic
WED. | 11-11-20 | NEWS
SAT. | 10-10-20 | NEWS
Since COVID-19 struck, many have been affected economically and are working diligently to persevere through financial hardships. Both the food bank and homeless shelter have been able to stay open during the pandemic, but significant changes have been made to the operations of both organizations.
“We really heavily depend on volunteers, but presently, we’re limited to eight to ten people per shift and we’re very thankful to some hardcore volunteers who are longstanding volunteers who keep showing up and are doing all the social distancing,” Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina Eastern Regional Director George Young said.
Food banks serve by providing warehouses to store food and by distributing the food to pantries from there. The Greenville Branch of the Food Bank, in particular, helps to supply about 120 food pantries in the counties of Edgecombe, Green, Lenor, Pitt and Wilson. Although the food bank can give out emergency food supplies, it redirects people who need such supplies to food pantries, which can provide them with food on a regular basis.
“All of our food pantries in the past could come into the warehouse and pick up some of their distribution [and] pick things out,” Young said. “Now all of those distributions have to be prepared on pallets and then when they arrive to pick them up, take that outside and put it onto their trucks and then also our trucks going into the community have to use safety protocol when they’re delivering the food to the food pantries.”
When organizations apply to become food pantries, they must meet certain requirements. For example,
Graphic by Tierney Reardon
the organization would have to have the capacity to be open regularly and follow safety procedures. There would also have to be a need in the area for a new food pantry. Food pantries can be religiously affiliated or not, but all have to be non-profits.
“Since March 16, we’ve seen a 38% increase in the call for food assistance,” Young said.
Lately, there has been more than enough food to go around, allowing the food banks and pantries to keep up with the increased demand.
“We’re also getting a tremendous amount of food presently through the COVID legislation,” Young said. “The USDA is paying farmers and food manufacturers because of this great downturn in restaurants not accepting this food, they’re buying the food from farmers and food manufacturers and that food is coming to us at the food bank and we are turning it around.”
Much of this food is fresh food, unlike the shelf-stable food food banks usually distribute. To keep up with the influx of food, they have had to hire new temporary drivers.
In the homeless shelter’s case, however, even more substantial changes have been made, forcing them to limit their services.
“Prior to COVID, we provided many more services than we do now, simply because our services are staffed by volunteers and we cut all of our volunteer services with the exception of meals,” Community Crossroads Center Executive Director Ken Becker said.
Before, the homeless shelter provided a Respite Center for those medically in need, a kids center with books where people specializing in child development would come from East Carolina University, visits from speech therapists, an open closet for both community members and residents, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Bible studies and case management services.
“We are a ‘hand up’ type of agency, not a ‘hand out,’ so we offer people case management, we offer people a place to sleep, a couple meals a day and hopefully we can get them going in the right direction,” Becker said.
Since the start of COVID-19, the shelter has gone through various changes. When Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina would be going on lockdown, Community Crossroads Center stayed open around the clock for a month before returning to their regular hours of operation: opening at 6 p.m. and closing at 8 a.m.
Screening questions for COVID-19 are asked to new residents both over the phone and in-person, followed by temperature checks. Additionally, hand sanitizing stations have been set up, staff wears personal protective equipment, masks are provided to residents and dorms are at half capacity with beds spaced six feet apart.
“A lot of the folks that would normally come here are being housed through [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the county housing,” Becker said. “They’re putting them up in hotels.”
While the shelter has not been serving a larger number of people as of yet, they expect that the number of those in need of housing will increase once the ban on evictions is lifted. Even if they do still have jobs, many will be unable to support themselves.
“I would say about 30% of our folks have jobs, are working, what some people call working poor, where they’re just one check away from losing everything, so we try to step in and do the best we can with the resources we have available,” Becker said.
In order to keep up with their services, both organizations rely heavily on donations. Those who are interested in supporting these organizations can help both monetarily and by informing the community of their work. Donations to the Food Bank can be made online at https://secure.foodbankcenc.org/site/Donation2?df_id=10523&mfc_pref=T&10523.donation=form1&chosen=60&s_src=socialbar&s_subsrc=website or though checks made out to Food Bank CENC. To spread the word about Community Crossroads Center and find out more about their upcoming fundraising events, go to their website communitycrossroadscenter.org, their Facebook @GvilleXroads, or their Instagram @communitycrossroadsgreenville.