As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the area, local nonprofits that serve those in need are seeing donations vital to their ministries dwindling.
» Burke United Christian Ministries
At Burke United Christian Ministries, showers for homeless people have been limited to two hours a day and the Saved For You clothing store is closed, according to Alice Horton, BUCM’s executive director. Food and supplies are being distributed on a to-go basis.
Horton is concerned about the ministry still receiving monetary donations during the chaos coronavirus has created, especially since it had to cancel a major fundraiser. Food is still coming in for now.
“The community continues to help us with food donations, especially local restaurants,” Horton said. “The households that get grocery-type items is where we will be lacking soon. We are also having a hard time locating large quantities of things like pop-top-can meats that we would normally give to our homeless.”
Clothing donations are needed as well.
“We are still giving the homeless a change of clothes,” Horton said. “There has been a steady need in this area for the homeless due to the weather.”
She expressed concern for the ministry’s volunteers.
“Many of our volunteers are aging and so we are being very cautious regarding volunteers,” Horton said. “As much as we need extra hands, we are avoiding taking on new volunteers at this time due to the virus. We want everyone to stay safe at home and follow the national practices. This makes things difficult, but we still have volunteers who come daily to help. We thank God for all our volunteers.”
She shared ways people can support BUCM during the crisis.
“Please pray for our ministry,” Horton said. “Please donate food items. Please donate monetarily if possible. We want to thank the community for all of their support. We will be here for the community as long as it’s safe and allowed.”
» East Burke Christian Ministries
East Burke Christian Ministries has had to drastically change its practices as well, according to Carolyn Yoder, EBCM’s executive director.
“The clients are not allowed in the building,” Yoder said. “We are setting a box (of food) outside for our clients, taking their name and letting them go. Per the Second Harvest Food Bank, they suggested a drive-thru pick up for clients, but this doesn’t actually work for us in our location. So we are giving them a box to go and trying not to have much contact with them.”
She also anticipates a drop in monetary donations, since most of EBCM’s donations come from churches that are now closed. The ministry receives food donations from the Food Lion in Hildebran, but donations are down as people panic-buy groceries and empty store shelves.
“Everything has been taken in the stores, so we are getting less in every category and therefore we are giving less to the clients,” Yoder said. “We are purchasing what food we can from the Second Harvest Food Bank to save our funds for other needs.”
She encouraged people to donate either money or food to the ministry.
“We are not accepting donations of clothing at this time,” Yoder said. “We do not want to have to handle all those items trying to keep our volunteers safe. They are all above 65 years of age and older, all but one. Some of our volunteers are worried about helping, but so far they have been here.”
» The Outreach Center
The Outreach Center has transitioned its WOW student enrichment program to online instruction only and closed its Home Store, according to Bianca Moses, director of community relations for the organization. Access to the store will be granted by appointment. Delivery fees on larger items will be temporarily waived. Staff that is able to work remotely is doing so. The ministry’s thrift store is still open, but is heavily sanitizing and accepting payments over the phone.
“We rely heavily on proceeds from sales in our thrift store and home store to fund our programs, and we are currently losing thousands of dollars per week in revenue,” Moses said.
Food donations are down as well.
“Donations from grocery stores have definitely decreased,” Moses said. “With restaurants closing, the donated food that we previously received has ended. We are still purchasing food for the distribution, but there is a decrease in the ‘extras.’ Panera Bread is a large donor. We will greatly miss their amazing pastries and breads at this distribution. However, even with the temporary loss of these donations, we remain thankful that we have food to give, especially this month.”
TOC also is doing everything it can to protect its volunteers.
“We are actually turning volunteers away so that they can stay safe and healthy during this time,” Moses said. “We will have minimal volunteers at the end of the month distribution. Most of the volunteers will be working inside preparing boxes, not working directly with those picking up food. This puts an extra strain on our very small staff, but we are working together to make this happen.”
She said the best way people can support the ministry is to contribute financially.
“Even a small amount is so important right now,” Moses said. “We, like others in our community, have lost so much because of the pandemic. Retail sales are down and fundraisers have been postponed or canceled. In spite of this, we remain committed to being a stable and active presence at this time. We anticipate a record number of people in need at our distribution on (March) 31.”
The food distribution will take place from 1-7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31. Those receiving food will be asked to not smoke and to keep their car windows rolled up. Cars will be directed to a designated area, where people will be given a box of food to load in their own vehicles. Distribution volunteers will practice social distancing.
“We feel that now, more than ever, we must keep our doors open and our shelves stocked,” Moses said. “We also ask for prayer for strength, protection and ability to provide to those in need during this difficult time.”