The Franciscan Center usually has about 30 volunteers helping to sort, pack and distribute food to its clients Tuesday and Thursday mornings. However, with the dangers of COVID-19, only one volunteer was willing to help the last week in March.
Just when The Franciscan Center is expecting an increase in need, it’s finding itself short of volunteers and unable to replenish its supplies because store shelves are bare.
Executive Director Tony Ley said in an April 3 news release, “Our programs seem to lag the rest of the economy about a week. When the city was scouring store shelves for toilet paper, our medicine cabinet still had supplies, thanks to the recent Pack the Pantry campaign. But this week, many of the usual staples are gone, donations have dropped, and we can’t even purchase temporary replacements in the stores.”
Ley said he understands why volunteers want to maintain safe social distancing. “Many of our volunteers are retired, and we want to ensure their safety throughout this ordeal. We look forward to their return when this is all over,” he said.
The two thrift stores on Coliseum and West Jefferson boulevards are temporarily closed due the governor’s mandatory closing of non-essential businesses. Volunteers have the option to take short shifts to maintain the donations that are still coming in, or can come to the Maple Grove Avenue location and help fill the gap.
While the organization is still able to deliver sack lunches to its clients on Saturday mornings, and has modified its distribution at the food pantry to provide a prepackaged bag of groceries outside the facility, what it can provide has shifted dramatically. Ley said that “even staples like bread are non-existent now. Our usual donors of bread no longer have any stock to donate, and, like you, we can’t buy any temporary supplies from the stores.” Therefore, staff is making adjustments based on what is available to fill the gap. “And next week, we may have to move to another option, but we will continue to shift and do whatever is needed to keep our doors open.”
And based on what the staff is seeing, they expect demand for their limited supplies to explode. “Again, we seem to lag the market. We expect in the coming weeks, as families that normally never would have considered our food pantry and medicine cabinet as an option, run out of options, our services may become their primary source of survival in the coming months,” he said.
The medicine cabinet provides over-the-counter medications, toiletries and personal hygiene items.
To help fill the gaps, the Franciscan Center is seeking a matching gift donor to help encourage gifts through April. “It is times like these that I am amazed by the continued generosity of our donors and supporters,” Ley said.