By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
With more people out of work due to layoffs directly caused by coronavirus concerns, Yukon’s non-profit helping agencies have seen a noticeable increase in people seeking food.
One of those service agencies – the Manna Pantry – is reporting a surge in the number of hungry clients who need groceries.
As of Monday, the emergency food cupboard had served 85 families with 180 adults and 137 children over the previous week. The total included 34 new clients.
“We’re here to help our community get through this pandemic together,” Manna Pantry director Sherri Rogers said. “We’re committed to helping those people who need help while keeping both our clients and volunteers safe.
“We are practicing social distancing. We have ‘runners’ who are volunteers that take orders out to our clients, who we ask to stay in their vehicles.”
Manna Pantry, 123 S Sixth, remains open six days a week (except Saturday) to provide food.
“We’re asking our clients to be patient,” Rogers said. “We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances.”
One challenge facing the non-profit agency is having enough people to help at the pantry.
Manna Pantry has lost several dozen volunteers in the past week; many are older people with medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.
Manna Pantry – which feeds the hungry in Yukon and Piedmont – benefits from having food supplied by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the amount of food donated by local grocery retailers has declined as many residents stock up in case of an extended quarantine.
“We will have to increase the amount that we order each week from the food bank,” Rogers said.
Items especially needed are: Dairy products, canned fruit, fresh fruits and vegetables, tuna, beans, soup, pasta sauce, condiments, and oatmeal.
Manna Pantry can help eligible residents apply for help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.
YUKON’S GROWING HUNGRY POPULATION
Yukon Sharing Ministry is temporarily offering only food since that is the primary – and overwhelming – need right now. Yukon Sharing traditionally provides clients not only food, but clothing and household items.
“We have definitely seen more ‘new’ people, who have been accustomed to having money to buy groceries,” Yukon Sharing director Missy King said. “We served 100 people last week, including 10 new families. Usually we have one or two new families a week so that’s an indication of where we’re going.
“This is just the beginning. People who have a job – we’ll see those numbers go down. None of us have seen this before so we’re ‘learning on the fly’. We’re here for the long haul since this won’t be over in just a day or two.”
Non-perishables and snack items are in high demand.
With school out for an extended period, some parents have had to figure out how to feed their children who are home all day.
“This is a hardship on families who are accustomed to having kids at school where they eat meals,” King said.
Yukon Sharing will help people from Yukon first, but won’t turn anyone away if they’re hungry and need food. Non-Yukon residents will get help one time.
The non-profit agency is taking some precautions when people come to the Yukon Sharing office, 4 N Sixth.
Yukon Sharing is helping one person at a time, and they are asking them to stay in their vehicles while volunteers fill food orders.
“We have a small waiting area, so this is safer for them and our volunteers,” King said. “Many of our volunteers are older people and we don’t want them to catch the virus.”
The Yukon Sharing director said she’s been “humbled” by the response of Yukon residents to this crisis.
“We’ve had a real outpouring of people who have wanted to donate – both cash and food,” King said. “It’s been humbling but really not surprising because that’s how Yukon is.
“We’re so thankful for the donations. It’s been a blessing.”
Even smaller charities that help feed Yukon’s hungry are experiencing the economic impact of the coronavirus.
Jacob’s Cupboard has seen the amount of people seeking food double, according to founder/director Shelli Selby.
Housed inside West Metro Church at 601 W Main, Jacob’s Cupboard doesn’t turn anyone away. Many of those who come for food make too much money under federal government guidelines but still deserve help, according to Selby.
The cupboard is stocked with perishables like milk, bread and eggs that Selby buys twice a week. Donations are always welcome.
CARE-A-VAN SERVICE SUSPENDED
Yukon’s Compassionate Hands has suspended its Care-A-Van program, which provides elderly residents and people with disabilities transportation to medical appointments and personal errands.
The Compassionate Hands office at 119 S Sixth is still open to help people in temporary crisis, according to director Joanne Riley.
People must call 354-9591 to see what’s available.
The Compassionate Hands’ board determined the suspension of the Care-A-Van service, which will be until April 16, was needed for the safety of both drivers and passengers.
First and foremost, the elderly and disabled residents who ride in the vans are in the high-risk category of COVID-19.
Also, Compassionate Hands’ drivers are retired professionals who also are in this high-risk category. These drivers will be compensated during this time.
Since Compassionate Hands’ non-profit ministry is not a health-care facility, Riley said they do not have immediate access to protective wear or easy access to sanitizing materials.
Compassionate Hands’ board of directors will consider other ways to utilize the vans to help the Yukon community.
This could include meal or food delivery to the elderly and those with disabilities, Riley said.