COVID-19 has created obstacles for nonprofit organizations throughout the Lehigh Valley, including a lack of food supply and volunteers.
Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) is a nonprofit organization that combats anti-poverty by working through a range of programs, from Second Harvest Food Bank to homeownership counseling.
While much of the organization’s food supply consists of donations from industry businesses, Jennings said he still spends money on food to complement the donations.
“I’ve done this work for 39 years, and I’ve fought every battle you can fight,” said Alan Jennings, the executive director of Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley. “But this is just so outside the rules.”
Jennings said he is doing everything possible to get the amount of food necessary to sustain the increasing demand.
“Our guy who does the buying recently approached 19 vendors and, of those 19, eight of them didn’t return our call, five of them didn’t have any food to sell, and the remainder had prices 25-40 percent higher than what they were just two or three months ago,” Jennings said.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos donated $110 million nationwide to Feeding America, and $499,000 was allocated to CACLV’s Second Harvest Food Bank, Jennings said.
Jennings said they have raised $1 million in the past few weeks, including the contribution from Bezos. He said they are currently seeing a 50 percent increase in the amount of people visiting the pantry.
Marc Rittle, executive director of New Bethany Ministries, said they are also experiencing an increase in demand as a result of the coronavirus.
New Bethany Ministries is a nonprofit organization that provides food and housing, specifically emergency transitional housing support, to any member of the community who needs it. The nonprofit has a food pantry and a hospitality center, which typically provides hot meals, showers, and laundry services.
Rittle said on average, New Bethany Ministries would serve between 60 to 70 people per day,., but now serve between 80 and 100. They used to have four staff members and 10 volunteers working every day, but currently have just three staff members and four volunteers.
“All of our housing is pretty much stalled, but we also haven’t kicked anyone out,” Rittle said. “We have been serving more people on a day to day basis than usual, and we serve all curbside.”
Rittle said New Bethany Ministries first reacted to the pandemic by closing the day shelter and dining room but, even then, there were large groups of people congregating on the street outside. He said for two weeks, they had someone standing outside to enforce social distancing rules.
Rittle said they have kept their showers open to promote hygiene, but have closed their bathrooms.
He said opening these bathrooms would lead people to congregate and loiter in large groups, which would defeat the purpose of closing the day shelter. Rittle said there have been some outhouses placed near some of the encampments across the Lehigh Valley.
While local nonprofits are feeling the impact of less volunteers, Lehigh students are also missing the opportunities they had on campus to volunteer and make a difference.
Becca Landau,‘22, serves as the vice president of community service for Kappa Delta. Landau said she misses seeing the impact of her volunteer work in-person.
Kappa Delta hosts an annual event, “So You Think You Kan Dance,” to raise money for Prevent Child Abuse America’s local beneficiary, Project Child. Despite not being able to host this event or volunteer in person, Landau said Kappa Delta is still trying to raise awareness.
“We are currently working on an awareness video, so although we can’t work in person with Project Child, we do want to spread awareness about child abuse, especially now that people are in their homes quarantining,” Landau said.