Friday, APRIL 03, 2020
WARREN – For the Trumbull County District of the St. Vincent de Paul Society here, dealing with the coronavirus is only part of the problem, said executive director Darlene Jones.
Already trying to deal with the larger situation posed by the pandemic and the increased need, Jones explained, the Trumbull district suffered another setback the weekend of March 21 and 22 after a pipe burst inside their thrift store on Niles Road here, which funds a large portion of the meal program.
The resulting flooding also affected another room that had just been remodeled and which contains much of their records, Jones said. There were six inches of water on the floor when the first person arrived the morning of March 23.
“Our voucher and our food pantry were run out of the thrift store,” so the burst pipe disrupted those efforts, Jones explained.
Amid the difficulty, however, Jones pointed out, an opportunity arose.
Nationally, the Salvation Army is no longer serving hot meals, so the Salvation Army here and the St. Vincent de Paul entered into a joint agreement, Jones said.
So, the St. Vincent de Paul has taken over the hot meal program, which will increase their daily meal service from 125 to 150 per day to 200 per day, she said. Because of the social distancing order, the volunteers now package the hot meals to go instead of serving them at their dining hall on Niles Road – in the same building as the thrift stores and offices.
In exchange, the Salvation Army is taking over the food pantry work for St. Vincent de Paul. The arrangement, Jones said, will be in effect as long as the pandemic continues.
The Trumbull district serves the to-go hot meals 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Jones said it started serving meals to go after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all restaurants to shut down their seating areas in mid-March.
“We are getting different people now. Lots of new faces. It is apparent that many people are out of work,” Jones said. “And some of our new clients are people who have never had to use a food pantry or soup kitchen before. They don’t know where to go.”
Jones said that the Trumbull St. Vincent de Paul Council gives meals to anyone with no income requirements. They do track age, sex and whether the person is an adult or child just to get a handle on whom they are serving.
“The most important thing to us and all the volunteers is that we treat everyone that comes through our doors with dignity and respect, whether they are here for the short-term or long,” Jones said.
The to-go meals include a main dish, side dish, salad, drink and dessert. The volunteers also will give extra meals to people who have children or sick spouses or parents at home to feed.
Jones said that, like in Mahoning County, many of their volunteers are elderly, so they have been asked to step back for safety reasons.
“We are now running the program with our youngest volunteers and they are in their 50s and 60s,” she said.
In addition, the area youth groups that would help out on Saturdays no longer can do so because it is considered a school function.
The loss of the thrift store for the time being has also cost them a revenue source as well as impeding their ability to offer clothing, furniture, and other necessities to those who come for help, Jones said.
So, they are seeking donations. Anyone interested in helping can log on to their website, svdptrumbull.org.
Still, despite the difficulties, Jones remains hopeful. “We are building character and resilience.”
“This is our 90th year serving Trumbull. We have managed with God’s help, facing whatever challenges came at us, and we have faith and confidence that we will now,” Jones said. “Vincentians always step up.”
Written by Marly Reichert,
Special to the Exponent