On the Frontline: Nonprofits During COVID-19 – Part 2

“It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.” – Doe Zantamata

We at Community First want to shed light on you, the nonprofits on the frontline. You incredible nonprofits are always bringing light to our community. But now you are also having to amp up the wattage against the darkness that is the impact of the Coronavirus. And we are reminded that what you are doing now more than ever is crucially important.

What hasn’t changed during this time? The initial mission, the “why” for your nonprofit, still exists. But now COVID-19 has changed your strategy. It is a major medical emergency. And with it come other issues, too. With millions out of work, stay-at-home measures increasing domestic violence situations, and the lack of funds for food becoming a huge concern, the ripple effect has just started. We will continue to be affected by this crisis for many months.

What are you, our front-line nonprofits, doing? In this, our second part of our two-part series, Community First met with several of you to find out.


Joshua Stuz, Director of Development, Home Again Richmond


Mission: Helping families and individuals experiencing homelessness secure and maintain a Home, Again. Helping families, men, and veterans with shelters. Also assisting people with disabilities. Create rapid rehousing opportunities. In operation for 40 years (since 1980).


How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the people you support and help?

Maintaining an active cleaning schedule, further limiting access to the shelters from outside individuals, and ensuring everyone is washing their hands regularly are a few. We have temporarily closed our administrative offices.

We have awesome volunteers  who help at the front desk or with meal service, but we have had to suspend them for a while. Our homeless are an at risk population anyway. They have health risks and those are complicated because they can’t shelter in place.

As a part of the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care, we’ve been working with the Daily Planet which provides health care for the homeless in Richmond. I’m glad to say there is not a single case of a homeless person contracting COVID-19 in our area.


What does your nonprofit need right now? What will your nonprofit need in the future?

Cleaning supplies, masks and disposable gloves are needed. We have been using 3D printed masks for our staff but we really need more for our residents.  The hard part is we can only buy one or two things at a time. With the initial hoarding that occurred, the stores are enforcing limits on the number of items you can buy, and they enforce it with our shelter too.

Monetary donations are needed too. Our concern is the future. Right now the impact is not costing a lot but in three to six months we will potentially see an increase in homelessness in RVA. As a result it will cost more to move people out of the shelter. There will be greater levels of assistance needed, too, as apartments won’t be as readily available. I think there is more on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis that needs to be accounted for.

Two weeks ago we opened a new emergency shelter for homeless families who want to get off the streets. HomeAgain bought out the rooms at the Richmond Hostel through mid-June. There are fifty people, about eight to nine families, sheltering there. We try to give each family their own room. It also supports the Richmond Hostel at a time when they can’t bring in travelers.


What message do you want to give to the people in our community?

I want people to remember that this is a community that cares. Mr. Rogers used to say, “Look for the helpers.” The helpers are there, in the people who ask two to three times a week if they can help with a meal or cleaning. I love that new people are helping out who hadn’t volunteered before this crisis.

RVA will step up and help get people back on their feet. It goes beyond ideology. People want to support themselves. It is a lot of work to go from homeless to a living residence in 45 days. They are scared, angry, and they hate asking for help, but they do. The people are determined to make it happen.


Austin Archer, Client Services Operations Manager, Feed More’s Meals on Wheels Program


Mission: Focused on individuals who have no reliable means for maintaining a healthy diet, Feed More’s Meals on Wheels program helps keep homebound seniors and disabled neighbors independent and in their own homes for as long as possible. Our Meals on Wheels volunteers provide recipients with a friendly smile and that important safety check, making the program extend far beyond the meal. A member of Meals on Wheels America, Feed More’s Meals on Wheels program serves more than 900 individuals throughout 14 cities and counties in the greater Richmond area.


How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the people you support and help?

Because our Meals on Wheels’ clients are homebound seniors and neighbors with disabilities, their health and safety must be a top priority for any organization providing services to this vulnerable population – always and especially now. As you can imagine, the pandemic has decreased our clients’ mobility and increased their social isolation even more, all in the name of keeping them safe.

Since our Meals on Wheels helps individuals who have no reliable means for maintaining a healthy diet, continuity of service is a must. Feed More put three strategies in place in early March to 1) ensure mission delivery, and 2) the health and safety of our Meals on Wheels client and volunteers.

First, Feed More adjusted our meal delivery model from a Monday through Friday distribution to once-a-week. Our clients now receive a box of frozen meals for the upcoming week every Friday. While we aren’t able to see our clients five times a week, our staff and volunteers make multiple reassurance calls throughout the week to check on them and remind them that we are here if they need anything.

Next, Feed More separated our Bayard Community Kitchen where we prepare the over 16,000 meals per week for our neighbors in need. And, over the course of the past several weeks, we have prepared two weeks’ worth of additional meals. Both of these strategies ensure that in the event a staff person or volunteer is diagnosed with COVID-19, our Meals on Wheels program will go on uninterrupted.

I’ll also mention that the pandemic has brought more first-time clients to our Meals on Wheels program. Since March, we have added 10 routes to our program so we are now at 102 routes across 14 localities and our client base has grown by 20 percent. Our partners at the Area Agencies on Aging and our Meals on Wheels team have been working hard to process new applications even faster than usual so that those who now find themselves in need are helped.


What does your nonprofit need right now? What will your nonprofit need in the future?

During this time, we have been blessed with new volunteers who have stepped up to help while they wait for their workplaces to get back to normal operations. As our region and state begin to open up, many of those volunteers will not be available. At the same time, we believe our new clients will stay with us and our program will continue to grow. We would appreciate anyone that knows they have time to spare on an ongoing basis to visit FeedMore.org and sign up to be a Meals on Wheel volunteer driver!

The community has been so generous to Feed More and our Meals on Wheels program during this unprecedented time. We appreciate that more than we can adequately express as that continued financial support helps as we watch our client numbers grow.


What message do you want to give to people in our community?

To our supporters, thank you for what you have done and will do to help us help over 1,000 senior and homebound neighbors in need!

To our current and future clients, we’re here to help. We are thinking of you and how we can be there for you – during this unprecedented time and always.

And finally, to the community-at-large, I know I speak for our entire Meals on Wheels team and Feed More as a whole when I say thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve and to provide a sense of security and peace of mind to our clients. They deserve it and it is truly an honor and a pleasure!

How Can We Help You?

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