The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many restaurants and businesses to shut down, leading to skyrocketing unemployment. Now, non-profits are feeling the impact as people seek help with food and shelter.
"Last week, we served about 13,500 people, and that was up from about 7,000 three weeks ago,” said Nicole Celaya, the executive director of FoodLink for Tulare County in California.
FoodLink for Tulare County is the largest independent food bank in its area, providing to local food pantries that help people in need.
"We have not seen anything like this ever, and I've been here for five years,” said Celaya. “And in that time, I've never seen anything like this, and I'm sure past executive directors would say the same.”
Celaya says while the need right now is great, the outpouring from the community is even greater. She says,
"For the most part, we are getting a great response from community organizations like rotaries, Kiwanis and churches,” she said. “They've really stepped up to help us monetarily and with extra volunteers. Of course, we understand that with so many people laid off, money is tight."
Concerned about keeping people safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Denver Rescue Mission has moved all of its services and beds into the National Western Complex.
"Our capacity is 768. We opened up there on Thursday and we've been averaging 700 guests per night," said Nicole Tschetter of the Denver Rescue Mission.
Tschetter says on a normal year, they usually see a decrease in donations and volunteers at this time. COVID-19 has changed that.
"We've actually seen a massive increase in those, which is something we’re incredibly grateful for just because they amount of people we’re serving has increased, as well, and we’ve specifically seen things like food donations from restaurants increase,” Tschetter said. “Grocery stores are giving us their fresh produce and churches are giving us things like giving us packaged food as well.
Still, volunteers are still in dire need of N95 masks. The organization will also need hygiene and cleaning products over the next few months.
"We are seeing massive increase in those donations, but as soon as they come in, we're using them," said Tschetter.
FoodLink for Tulare County needs dry beans, rice, vegetable oil and other staples that are becoming harder for them to find. Many are concerned the need will only continue to grow and supplies will soon be depleted.
"Even when things start to be getting back to normal, they’re still going to be unemployed or having to catch up on their bills, and so even when things are starting to pass, I’m thinking the need is going to be around for a least the next six months," said Celaya.
As they continue to get supplies, food and shelter to people in need, in a safe manner, one donation non-profits will continue to need as they navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic is money.