NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – At a time when many Americans are seeing their working hours slashed or their jobs lost altogether, families will be turning more and more to organizations like Community Missions for help putting food on the table and a roof over their heads.
But Community Missions has had to make major changes as it works to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including asking volunteers to stay away.
“We’re trying to limit exposure as most everybody is so we’re not accepting anybody coming in that absolutely does not have to be here,” explained Christian Hoffman, Director of Public Relations and Development for Community Missions.
Staff members are now preparing food in the Community Kitchen that’s normally handled by volunteers.
Community members are no longer allowed to gather in the Community Kitchen for the normal congregate meals.
Instead, staff members are preparing to-go containers of food, which are being distributed from 11:15 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the Community Missions’ front service door, facing Buffalo Avenue.
Community members are also no longer allowed to come inside the Food Pantry. Staff members are preparing the food and handing it to families at the door during the normal distribution hours.
Distributions for the Clothes Closet and Furniture Giveaway programs are no longer possible, so no donations are being accepted until further notice.
These were not easy decisions to make.
“Certainly we want to be responsive to the community and help the community with what they need, but just the responsibility of trying to gather a lot of people together in one place is just something we cannot have,” Hoffman said.
Community Missions is continuing to provide emergency shelter to those who need it, but they are taking extra precautions to be safe. Those include more rigorous cleaning procedures and creating designated quarantine rooms if needed.
Community Missions leaders say they are bracing a greater need for many of their services as the full scope of the virus situation becomes clearer.
“We just don’t know what this is going to look like six, eight weeks from now, what demand for food is going to be, what the supply of food is going to be,” Hoffman said. “But we’re just going to continue doing the best we can.”
At this point, food donations from local businesses have continued to come in.
The greatest need for help from the community right now is for monetary donations. Hoffman says this will give Community Missions the flexibility to respond to needs as they arise.
You can also monitor the Community Missions website for updates on specific requests for help.