Love INC amidst Covid-19
OUR WORLD HAS BEEN TURNED UPSIDE DOWN…
My husband and I have always enjoyed sitting outside and watching the rain roll in from across the fields around our house. Before you can even see the rain, you notice a change. The temperature usually drops a bit, the breeze picks up, the leaves on the trees turn over, and I can usually even smell the rain in the air. You can just tell it is going to rain. And then, as predicted, the clouds roll in and we see the rain starting to fall over the fields as it makes its way toward us.
At the beginning of March 2020, Love INC found ourselves in a similar situation. I kept an ear to the news and listened for updates on COVID-19 and how it was impacting communities around the world. As the virus started to show itself on American soil, we took note of communities being impacted, families being asked to stay at home, and places of work being shut down. As the storm began to head to Marion, we braced ourselves for what we predicted would happen.
As predicted, Ohio (and Marion) was greatly impacted by the virus but we had worked together and managed to slow things down and “flatten the curve”. Many businesses, schools, and churches slowed down or closed temporarily, and many individuals were laid off from their jobs or asked to work from home.
Because of our work supplying food and other resources for our community, Love INC was qualified as an essential service. As director of Love INC, I had concerns about how we would be able to continue to serve our community when the needs would inevitably increase dramatically, and yet our number of volunteers would undoubtedly decrease. As the shutdowns started, we braced for impact.
QUIET BEFORE THE STORM
As one week turned into the next, we kept reviewing what was happening around us. None of our predictions came true. It was quite the opposite really.
CALLS FOR HELP…
Our neighbors call the Love INC Clearinghouse (Call Center) for help and are able to leave voicemail for us 24×7 if we aren’t able to answer the call in person. Prior to Covid-19 hitting our community, we would likely have on average 20-25 calls on our voicemail from the weekend. However, we were seeing 3-6 calls over a 3-day weekend.
Calls for Emergency Food boxes through our partners at Emanuel Lutheran Church and Cornerstone Alliance dropped dramatically. Calls for Gas Vouchers, through our partners at Prospect Street United Methodist Church, were nearly non-existent because nobody was going anywhere. Requests for our Diaper Ministry, through our partners at First Presbyterian Church, remained somewhat steady but declined as well.
TRENDS LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY
During this time, none of the Love INC staff, board, nor volunteers, were sitting on our hands waiting for things to go back to normal. We continued to serve and sought out new opportunities to minister as we pivoted into our new reality.
Our CommUNITY Collaborative meetings actually increased from monthly to biweekly meetings as Love INC helped Marion’s community agencies and organizations work together to address new needs during this time. In many ways, our community worked together better than ever before! Our board and its committees continued to meet via Zoom as we continued to work on fundraising, growing our Transformational Ministry program, and strengthening our affiliate. We established a growing Mask Ministry that donated masks for our neighbors being served by several of our community partners.
Many of our community partners saw the same trends in fewer requests for help that we saw at Love INC Marion AND these same trends were also predominant in other Love INCs across America. (About the only exception was when a Love INC affiliate provided the primary or sole food pantry in their community. In that case, they oftentimes increased their call volume and had fewer volunteers available to manage the requests.) Due to the extra unemployment benefits, stimulus packages, bonuses, and more, requests and needs indeed changed.
While the calls for material goods and financial assistance in Marion decreased dramatically, the need for Love INC did not decrease. Marion and other communities saw a dramatic increase in cases of abuse, depression, anxiety, suicide, loneliness, and other areas related to mental health.
We worried about families that assumed incorrectly that “no evictions or shut-offs” during this time means they “don’t have to pay rent or utilities” during this time. Some misspent their “extra” financial relief assistance on other things. We knew a time would come when landlords and utility companies would have to ask for payments again.
As mentioned earlier in this post, we could see the rainstorm coming. These storms can be scary, but they can also be a healthy part of growth. During this particular storm, we nurtured relationships and programs that were healthy for growth and we pruned areas that were no longer needed so we could focus our engergies on areas that were critical.
Love INC is grateful for the support of our community, our financial supporters, our churches with Gap Ministries that continued to serve and our partner churches for your continued financial and prayer support. Thanks to you we were able to continue to meet our community’s needs, even as those needs were continuously changing. Thanks to you, we were able to continue ministry in our community and we could to pay our bills. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU.