By Ruby Thomas and Jessica Able
Record Staff Writers
Non-profit agencies in the Archdiocese of Louisville are taking precautions against the spread of infection of COVID-19 while trying to keep their food pantries and other services open to those most vulnerable in the community.
Area ministries, soup kitchens and homeless centers are facing a drastic reduction in the number of volunteers, while the demand for services is likely to increase. Agency staff continue to provide food and other necessities, including hygiene and cleaning supplies, to clients while also adhering to the social distancing guidelines designed to contain the spread the novel coronavirus.
Among those facing a shortage of volunteers and an uptick in need are the 15 community ministries in Louisville, including Catholic Charities’ Sister Visitor Center. Numerous parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville are also partner-members of these community ministries.
Gary Copeland, executive director of Shively Area Ministries, said in an interview March 16 that “practices have changed,” but community ministries remain open and committed to serving the community.
Copeland said staff and clients are “trying to practice social distancing to the maximum.” Volunteers have been asked to stay home and staff is lining clients up six feet apart in the waiting area, he said.
“During times of crisis hunger does not abate. People still have the same needs as usual. And it’s possible to see those needs exacerbated because individuals have had their hours (at work) decreased or stopped and kids are home. The needs could grow exponentially,” said Copeland. The governor on Monday restricted restaurants and bars to take-out only, leaving some service workers without jobs.
Area ministries have instituted a number of adjustments to help keep staff, volunteers and those in need healthy, including limiting the number of individuals entering the agency at a time, moving distribution out doors and conducting more services via telephone and computer.
The Association of Community Ministries has an “Emergency Relief Fund for Families in Crisis due to COVID-19” to raise money for the network of 15 community ministries in the Louisville area. To donate, click here.
Catholic Charities of Louisville has moved many services, including language, family support and legal services, to phone or video platforms if at all possible, according to a statement from the agency.
Catholic Charities’ Sister Visitor Center, located at 23rd and West Market Streets, is open and providing assistance in a limited capacity.
Sister Michele Intravia, director of the center, said the staff is taking safety precautions, while still providing for the needy.
The center’s clothing ministry is closed temporarily, but the food pantry is still open. However, clients are not being allowed in the small waiting area, she said. They are asked to wait at the door where Sister Intravia and volunteers meet them with bagged groceries.
The center is in “desperate need” of cleaning supplies, as well as food donations and monetary aid, Sister Intravia said. It is not accepting clothing donations at this time.
Individuals who wish to donate items are asked to call the center at 776-0155 before stopping by.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which operates the Open Hand Kitchen on South Jackson Street, has instituted changes to its operations as well.
Clients can no longer eat in the kitchen’s dining hall. Volunteers meet clients at the door and hand out sack lunches and dinners, said Donna Young, director of conference affairs and volunteer services.
Volunteers for the society’s food pantry are also meeting guests at the door with bagged goods.
The agency is in need of cleaning supplies, financial donations and food donations, Young said.
Franciscan Kitchen, 748 South Preston Street, has also discontinued its dine-in option and is now offering a “to-go” meal consisting of a hot plate of food or hot sandwich, as well as a brown bag of snacks, vegetables, fruit and drink, said Chuck Mattingly, executive director.
Mattingly said staff are taking extra precautions in order to ensure the safety and health of volunteers and guests.
“We are taking every precaution we can to prevent the spread of the virus while at the same time taking care of the needs of our brothers and sisters in need,” he said.
Each volunteer and guest is required to wash their hands thoroughly upon entering the building. Additional space has been added between servers and guests. Once a guest has received a meal, they are required to leave the building.
Mattingly said younger volunteers in good health are needed because most of the volunteers are older and need to remain at home during this health crisis. The kitchen is also in need of packaged snacks, vegetables and bottled water.
Dare to Care, which provides millions of meals annually to people in Kentucky and Indiana who are food insecure, is in need of volunteers to prepare emergency food boxes.
The agency will assemble three shifts per day of small teams consisting of 10 to 12 individuals. The shifts will be 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Any healthy person who is able to work in an assembly line and do light lifting is encouraged to volunteer. To sign up or learn more, click here.
St. John Center for Homeless Men, 700 E. Muhammad Ali Blvd., is trying to provide basic services to the men it serves, while mitigating the spread of infection.
All volunteers have been instructed to stay home effective March 17, said Maria Price, executive director of the center.
Men are still able to stop in to take a shower, use the restroom and enjoy a cup of coffee.
“What we need right now are prayers, for those we serve, for those that live on the edge. This global health crisis will mean an economic crisis as well,” she said.
Tangible items the center needs are coffee, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, especially Lysol, and monetary donations.
Individuals may call ahead if they want to drop off items. Or, they can take them to their parish and a staff person at St. John’s Center will pick up the items from the parish.