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Serving The Less Fortunate In The Coronavirus Age

WHQR/Nick Santillo

The mission of Wilmington’s Good Shepherd Center is to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and foster transition to housing. Today, those needs are more urgent than usual, as the coronavirus puts a strain on organizations that serve the less fortunate.

The Good Shepherd Center is always busy serving the less fortunate. But many of the Center’s volunteers are in a vulnerable population group...and are now staying home.

But Executive Director Katrina Knight says they put in a lot of time preparing for this in advance. 

“We began making some preparations a few weeks back, which, now in hindsight, I'm glad that we began doing. That includes creating small stockpiles or attempted stockpiles of supplies that we know we need on a regular basis, sanitizing kinds of things, other cleaning supplies, and paper products. We were like the rest of the country not very successful in ordering more masks.”

Knight says they are looking for masks, which they use when working with folks who have the flu or other infectious issues. 

They have also changed how they work with their food kitchen clients. 

“Now ordinarily during the week, Monday through Friday, we might have as many as 200 folks from the community come for a lunch in an hour. And so that's a lot of folks all together -- a lot of folks in a dining room together. And so by last Monday, a week ago, we very quickly converted that to still a hot meal but a to-go option that is handed out outside the building. And so that has drastically decreased the number of folks from the community who are coming in the building and spending time together during their meal.”

Meanwhile their function as a homeless center is still in operation. 

“We do continue to accept additional homeless folks into the shelter. Our high in the last week or two has been about 90 adults and children. We think we can probably accommodate as many as a hundred safely and reasonably. However, this is at a time when virtually all of our volunteers are having to stay home because they do skew a bit older because they're retired, and they are often immunocompromised or have some sort of underlying health condition.”

But she says her team adapts well. 

“And so it's very much all hands on deck, as is the Good Shepherd way. Everyone on the team is rolling up their sleeves and helping out in areas that aren't usually their area of responsibility.”

Knight adds that businesses and residents are stepping up. 

“As always happens, the community is already been very responsive to us and directing food our way. Someone called Walmart, we just had a Walmart box delivered. Someone ordered some paper products and had those sent our way. So it's really, you know, just reflects so well on our community, even in a really difficult time when everyone is struggling with their own personal and work situations that they would even think of us. It's just really heartening and we appreciate it.”

Vince Winkel, WHQR News.