COVID-19 and the “shelter at home” orders sent many people to the CEC looking for help with food. It didn’t take long to realize that most of the families driving though our converted, social distancing pantry were unfamiliar ones. These new visitors were patient, humble, honest, and we could tell that getting food for the family brought a great deal of relief.
It’s very hard to admit that you need help and our front line staff and volunteers often see pain in the eyes of the driver when they admit for the first time that they have no current income. It is like they haven’t really grasped that until they had to say it out loud. When families come to the CEC for food, we collect pretty basic information including head of household name, address, size of family and how many adults and children live in the home. This data helps us understand who we are helping and where the need is. We believe that our education, employment and financial coaching services and resources can be a great help as we all move through the COVID-19 Pandemic, so we are following up with these families just to check on them and make sure they know we are here for them.
Once we were settled in our new pantry system, we decided to provide employment, education and financial information in the food pantry drive through in the form of a brightly colored CEC handout. As we had hoped, that opened the door for a little more conversation. Our staff added a couple of new questions to the “intake” process. “Have your work hours been reduced?”, “Have you lost your job?”, “Do you need a new job?” As you can imagine, we know a lot more about these men, women and children and what they are facing right now.
In one day, we learned that we were serving 60 adults in the 30 cars in line. Of those 60, 19 of them had experienced reduced hours due to Coronavirus, 14 of them had lost their job completely. We referred 36 people to our employment team that day. We discovered that 55% of the adults in 30 households served by the pantry that day had been directly affected by the pandemic.
Being there for those in need is our purpose. Witnessing the vast numbers of people who have been thrust into crisis with very little warning is something that hurts our hearts. We are blessed to have faithful support from donors, volunteers, civic groups, city and state officials and amazing school districts in the Northeast Tarrant County area. We really are #inthistogether and the CEC will always be here for those who need us.