Charities struggling to find help, provide assistance amid COVID-19 pandemic

The holidays are here, and that means charities all over the Washington region are kicking things into high gear –– but because of the pandemic, this year is even more of a struggle than most.

It’s largely due to two factors, according to officials. The first is an increase in the number of people who need help, and the second is that charities now face more challenges in providing the assistance.

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“Many pantries that have been collaborative with us but have not needed our support in the past are now calling saying, ‘I don’t have enough food on the shelves. I have a 50 percent increase in the number of people needing our help, but my donations are down and so can you guys send a box?’ And in many cases we don’t have the resources ourselves to support,” Catherine Hassinger, the director of community services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington said Monday.

She added that their donations are also down this year, and that Catholic Charities is having trouble finding volunteers who aren’t in groups that may be at greater risk due to COVID, like seniors.

“One of the challenges that we’re finding out is that at the start of the pandemic many individuals were furloughed, which meant you’re not working now but there’s a promise of a job in a few weeks or a few months, and many of those individuals are now finding out there’s no job to go back to. That furlough has now become a pink slip,” Hassinger explained.

And it’s far from the only challenge.

In D.C., Miriam’s Kitchen CEO Scott Schenkelber said they’re currently able to feed the homeless meals outside, which provides a safer environment for their staff as well the people they serve, but that may not be the case for long.

“Until it gets to an extreme point, we will continue to do the to-go meals, we will continue to serve everybody outside, but if we have a blizzard, if we have an extreme ice or an extreme cold event that makes it unfeasible for our staff and volunteers to safely provide this service, then we don’t have a good backup plan for that,” Scott Schenkelberg said.

The good news is if you want to help, there are ways to do it. Miriam’s Kitchen is accepting donations here. Meanwhile, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington is looking for both donations and volunteers. Links for both can be found at the top of the page here.