Charity organizations persevere through pandemic

Due to innovation and technology, nonprofits overcome difficulties with providing their services by using different methods to assist clients as the pandemic worsens.

Dedicated to serving the community, charity organizations have pushed past the hardships of the current pandemic to bring supplies and necessities to people in need.
Nonprofit Keystone Opportunity Center has long provided the community with food and essential items, education and housing. As the amount of COVID-19 cases grew, the center found itself in need of health precautions in order to protect clients and volunteers.
“Some of our volunteers may have compromised health issues and are also in a higher age category so we ask them not to come in. We don’t want our volunteers to get sick,” Keystone Opportunity Center Food Pantry Manager Cindy Dembrosky said.
In March, the organization distributed supplies with a drive-thru method where clients would pick up prepackaged food, then switched to a method of delivery to clients’ houses which they called “knock and drop.”
“So far, we have delivered to approximately 225 homes in the Souderton School District,” Dembrosky said. “It has taken quite a bit of time figuring out the logistics of where the food is to be delivered but the pantry volunteers and the drivers did a great job and were eager to help those in need throughout our school district.”
Along with changes to the way they provide food for clients, classes provided by the center are being held through various communication apps, such as Zoom and WebEx, along with free learning websites such as US Learns and New Readers Press Pre-High School Equivalency.
According to Director of Adult Education Susan Clauser, the center is “working hard to keep [their] learners engaged during the COVID-19 period.”
Keystone Opportunity Center’s housing program has also been affected, but less so because the staff was able to communicate with tenants virtually.
“We prepared to be virtual and remote so we have maintained the integrity of our process relatively well and can endure a sustained circumstance of remote function, ” Director of Housing Stability Programs James Kelleher said.
Charity organization Mitzvah Circle has been supplying families with clothing and other essential daily living items such as diapers and sanitary products.
The organization usually has around 1000 volunteers every month who pack personalized care packages for individuals in each family they serve.
However, many of these volunteers are in a high-risk group and cannot volunteer due to the pandemic, leaving Mitzvah Circle with only about four staff members to create these packages.
According to Mitzvah Circle Volunteer Manager Elizabeth Cleary, families are contacting the organization “looking for the diapers and the period’s supplies and the soap and the clothing that we supplied them with every three months and if they’re not able to get it from us, it’s really hard to find it somewhere else.”
As a result of panic buying by higher income families, organizations like Mitzvah Circle cannot get essentials like diapers at reduced prices (as part of the National Diaper Bank Network) to supply to low income families because these items marked for nonprofits are to be put on the market.
The higher prices of these items are only covered by Mitzvah Circle’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund which comes from donations so that they can provide these items to low income families.
Furthermore, the nonprofit is providing other organizations with these essential products, leaving them on loading docks assembled so that they can pick the items up without the risk of contact.
“On any given day, there are thousands of people in our community that need our help,” Cleary said. “That number has grown exponentially because of this crisis.”
Nonprofit Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) contains chapters and many programs in different countries, with one specific chapter at Souderton Area High School, run by chapter president Medha Kurukunda.
According to Kurukunda, the organization as a whole has lost over 90 percent of its revenue and its project sites around the world are unable to operate.
“They have suspended travel services which means that no more volunteers are visiting sites anymore so sites are not running as efficiently and productively as they once were,” Kurukunda said.
As a result, the organization has turned physical volunteer trips into virtual ones, offering all programs online and asking chapters for help.
“Hundreds of FIMRC chapters around the country are virtually fundraising money and donating as much as possible to keep this remarkable organization running,” Kurukunda said.
Many organizations are not sure about what is to come. “At this point, we are taking one week at a time,” Dembrosky said.