Sister Stephanie said they served 260 families last Tuesday, with the local police delivering boxed food to homebound seniors.
"We weren't spending a lot of time talking to people, as you might guess. We were kind of just like: 'Here's your food, I wish we could spend time with you!' It was kind of a very fast 'Here's your food, thanks be to God,'" Sister Stephanie laughed.
Sister Stephanie said her community is blessed to be able to continue to attend Mass and is praying for all those who cannot currently do so.
Volunteers harder to come by
Many food pantries depend on seniors as their most reliable volunteers. But since the eldery are more susceptible to COVID-19, most are staying home.
The Father McKenna Center, a Catholic day shelter for homeless men in Washington DC, normally acts as a drop in center for homeless men where they can get a meal, do laundry, and avail themselves of case management and other aid.
The center normally has 55 regularly scheduled volunteers from the community, but none are now able to come. Besides a small staff, a Jesuit Volunteer Corps volunteer and a Franciscan Missions volunteer are all who remain.
“This is not what they signed up for, but they’re jumping in,” Kim Cox, president of the center, told CNA.
Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services, the FMC has had to suspend its case management and ask most of the men who come to the center to go elsewhere.
DC’s homeless shelters that house people at night have changed their hours to be open all day, so the homeless can remain there and shelter in place.
The only homeless men that are left at the McKenna Center are a group of ten men who sleep at the center during the hypothermia season, which is coming to a close as spring arrives.
“I think that this is actually a really good opportunity. These guys are more than happy to help us,” Cox said.
In addition to scrubbing and deep cleaning the center’s kitchen, the homeless men have been helping to make masks out of fabric to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
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“And they felt good about that…these guys that are currently homeless, it really enhances their dignity for them to do something constructive.”
There are about 120 low-income seniors who live within five blocks of the center, Cox said. The homeless men in the hypothermia program are helping to bag groceries to distribute to the center’s neighbors.
The Capital Area Food Bank asked the McKenna Center to ramp up its food distribution by becoming a community hub, handing pre-made bags of groceries to DC residents who show up, with appropriate precautions taken for social distancing.
“To prepare the first 100 bags of groceries...the men in our hypothermia program helped make that happen,” Cox said.
“They helped to bag the groceries and move them where we need them...it’s terrific that they have this desire to help other people, and that we have this opportunity to give them something to do.”
"We've ramped up our services tremendously”