By President and CEO Robyn L. Krueger
Greetings from Community Missions. I wanted to pass along an update as to what we are seeing within our programs at this time related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For nearly a century, Community Missions has been an outlet for the community to help one another to get through difficult times. Already in the first few days of this situation, we have seen this generosity of spirit in many ways!
As we had sent out previously, we have shifted our operations to comply with the state regulations where appropriate (our website posting linked here). We have shut down our Clothes Closet and furniture programs from distribution or accepting these donations. Our food pantry and community kitchen programs are providing food, but handing items out in doorways instead of our typical distribution. We are no longer having any volunteers/interns in-house, and so have been asking staff to shoulder different responsibilities to keep our programs operational.
To this point, we have not seen large increases in our shelter or kitchen numbers. We have, however, seen demand in our pantry begin to increase significantly. On Tuesday we had 39 households (last month was 18), on Thursday we had 29 (compared to 20 last month), and another 40 households visited our program Friday. We certainly have reasons to believe that these demands for our food programs, and likely emergency shelter, will continue to increase as this continues, as, unfortunately, people may lose jobs and run out of resources.
We rely on food donations from many local stores for our kitchen and pantry. While we are seeing these regular donations greatly reduced (typically we could count on six pallets on a Tuesday from Sam’s Club, this week was a pallet of grapes and two half-pallets of cakes), to this point, this has been balanced by local restaurants donating their perishable goods. Of note, Sheraton Niagara Falls and Hyatt Place NF each dropped off a considerable amount of produce from their restaurants that no longer need them. Catholic Academy came today, clearing out milk, tuna, peanut butter, fruit, etc. from their kitchen. While this is good news for us in the short term, we have no anticipation that these types of donations will continue for weeks at a time.
Within our other residential programs, we are asking residents to stay in, while adjusting our staffing models where possible. With having a considerable amount of our staff working from home, we will be testing our IT system in ways that we never have before.
Our emergency housing shelter is still open. We have a couple of beds vacant, and are holding at least one room open should we need it as a quarantine facility. We have not yet seen an increase in demand, but again would anticipate this may very well happen, given the anticipated length of the situation.
We have of course suspended any kind of gatherings held on our property (Narcotics Anonymous, resident meetings, staff trainings, etc.), and are encouraging social distancing for any ongoing programs that we have.
We are so appreciative of your support in the past, and want to do our best to stay connected to you during this time. We look forward to continuing our work together in the future!