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Area agencies gearing up to meet COVID-19 needs for kids, seniors and others at risk

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 19, 2020 at 12:32 AM

With efforts to contain the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) adding to the challenge of accessing food and other essentials for the community’s most vulnerable populations, nonprofit groups across the region are stepping up their efforts.

And as they call on community members to help with delivery of food, cleaning supplies and hygiene items to at-risk groups, including the elderly and low-income families with children who are isolated in their homes, the service agencies are adopting special measures to protect their staff and volunteers as well as their clients.

All in this together

Aaron Murphy, executive director Good Samaritan Ministries told the Johnson City Press on Wednesday, “Right now we’re in the middle of a pandemic our world, country and community are going through together. And it’s important we follow the instructions of our government and local entities to keep us safe.

“In respect to schools and colleges being out for the next two weeks or more, we feel called on to make sure everyone has food. A lot of children depend on free and reduced price (school) meals. So we are stepping up to make sure everyone has food including seniors, college students and most importantly, children.

“A lot of businesses are shutting down and providing limited services. People are being asked to stay home and practice social distancing. We understand the community is at a place of major concern and Good Samaritan, as a ministry, is here for them as we go through this together.”

“We need the help of our community to provide them with soap, canned food and nonperishable items, and we need monetary donations to meet the increased need for meals. Everyone has to eat.”

How you can help

Good Samaritan is asking for donations of several key items that can be dropped off in collection bins at its offices at 100 N. Roan St. Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Most-needed items include hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, disinfectant wipes, bleach, bottled water and toiletries, peanut butter, rice, dried beans, baking mix, flour, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned meats, canned soup, mac and cheese, pasta and pasta dinner mixes.

Monetary donations to help the ministry buy the needed items can be made online at goodsamjc.org, by mail to Good Samaritan Ministries, P.O. Box 2441, Johnson City TN 37605 or by texting “Give” to 833-224-6131.

While Good Samaritan is in special need of volunteers at this time, Murphy said the ministry is asking anyone who is not feeling well and members of at-risk populations, including the elderly, to stay home and “self-quarantine.”

“We have measures in place to make sure our volunteers are taken care of and in the best condition to serve without compromising their health. And we are making those decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Murphy said.

Those who wish to help are asked to call the ministry at 423-833-2557 or email [email protected] to begin the application process.

Meals To Go

Precautionary measures have also been put in place for those in need of free hot meals served daily at The Melting Pot feeding ministry at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church and Salvation Army Center of Hope on Ashe Street.

At The Melting Pot, Murphy said, meals are available to go only at this time. To keep everyone safe, those in need of continental breakfast items or a hot lunch plate are asked to pick up their meals and immediately leave The Melting Pot premises.

The Johnson City Salvation Army is likewise serving hot lunch and dinner plates to go for any community members in need.

In a press release issued on Saturday, Corps Commander Lt. Antwan Yocum wrote, “because the Salvation Army often serves vulnerable populations, we will remain vigilant, flexible, and responsive in the face of COVID-19’s transmissibility.

“Similar to other local agencies, the Salvation Army is working to prioritize the health and safety of staff, clients, and guests. We have increased education, cleaning and disinfection efforts at all Salvation Army facilities, posting informational flyers and providing adequate supplies to staff, residents and guests.

All visitors are being encouraged to clean their hands with sanitizer and anyone who is sick or has a fever is asked to stay away.

The Salvation Army continues to accept donations of household goods and good used clothing at its Family Store drop-off site at 1420 E. Main St. Monetary donations can be be made online at give.salvationarmykentuckyandtennessee.org

United Way sets up COVID-19 Relief Fund

The United Way of Washington County has also joined in local efforts to help those impacted by COVID-19 containment efforts.

In response to numerous inquiries about how community members can help during the crisis, United Way President and CEO Kristan Spear on Tuesday announced the United Way has established a fund to serve as “a hub” for donations and support for those who wish to volunteer. The United Way will donate all administrative services for the fund so that all donations can be used locally.

“As needs continue to rise and there are many unknown needs at this time, United Way will promote the activities of its partner agencies who are providing direct assistance to our community members, all of whom have been previously vetted,” Spear wrote in the press release. “Through the Relief Fund, United Way of Washington County will support them in their efforts and ensure that our citizens who want to help their neighbors have a trusted outlet to do so.”

Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the fund and will be paid directly to the nonprofit agencies who need extra resources to Washington County residents who are affected in the areas of health, financial stability and education due to the pandemic.

“Distribution of the donated funds will be determined by an application process that has been distributed to our partner agencies along with reporting guidelines. United Way of Washington County allocations teams, made up of executive board finance committee members, will determine the amount of assistance as needs arise.

“The primary criteria for assistance from the fund will be need for adequate resources for the programs to help those affected by the virus. Agencies who cannot get assistance from other sources or have to wait until they receive other assistance will be given priority status.

“Assistance will be considered for food distribution to families with children who may not be getting breakfast and lunch at school; assistance of any kind to elderly who are unable to leave their homes, welfare checks on families with children and the elderly who may be at risk of neglect or abuse; emergency needs to homeless and other at risk individuals; any innovative programs that address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens during this pandemic related to health, financial stability and education.”

Volunteer United

On volunteering, Spear said, because many variables are still unknown, the United Way is encouraging its partner agencies and all regional nonprofits to use the Volunteer United website to post volunteer opportunities.

“It’s a collaborative project between all local United Ways to provide a volunteer search portal to our region. It connects volunteers with opportunities at our nonprofit partners and gives our nonprofit partners an opportunity to recruit volunteers. Those wanting to volunteer can search by subject and location. It’s a free service for all,” Spear said in the press release.

“We want to caution volunteers and our nonprofit agencies to consider the health and safety risk to themselves and to their loved ones before volunteering or asking for volunteers during this time. Common sense and following the CDC directions will be very important during this time where things can change very quickly. The United Way of Washington County and other regional United Ways may not be at their physical office locations, but they are available by phone and by email to answer any questions. The volunteer website can be found at www.volunteer-united.org.

More information about the United Way COVID-19 Relief Fund can be obtained by calling the United Way at 423-220-1229 or by email to [email protected] United Way of Washington County partner agencies are listed at www.uwowc.org with contact information. The United Way will also post the latest news about the efforts of nonprofits in our community on its social media pages and encouraging community members to dial the local 211 help line for a list of resources related to a specific needs

Second Harvest Requests Emergency Donations

To help food insecure people across Northeast Tennessee cope with changes in their daily lives related to COVID-19, particularly children and the elderly, Second Harvest Food Bank is working with hunger-fighting agencies across the area to establish emergency disaster pantries in each of the eight local counties it serves.

The food bank has also established critical function plans to maintain its basic food bank operations during the public health emergency and is communicating with area schools to determine if mobile pantries are needed.

To help support its response to the crisis, Second Harvest is requesting monetary and food donations to meet the anticipated increase in the region’s food needs during the coming weeks and months.

In a press release announcing the request for emergency donations, Second Harvest Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said, “Our community is resilient and we are powerful when we join together to collectively solve a problem.”

Donations to the local food bank may be made online at netfoodbank.org or my mail to Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee, 1020 Jericho Dr., Kingsport, TN, 37663.

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