16 Apr Jon Cartu Report: Ladies of Charity helping the needy despite COVID-19
Friday, Apr. 17, 2020
Courtesy photo/Joni Robertson
The Ladies of Charity have modified their routine at the Center of Hope food pantry so that families can have their trunks filled with food by the volunteers.
BOUNTIFUL — Women in the two Utah Ladies of Charity Associations are continuing their efforts to help the poor, despite the coronavirus crisis.
The Bountiful association runs a food pantry called Center of Hope, which is open the second and fourth Saturdays of the month and serves about 30 local families. The association has modified its operation so that it may continue to serve its clients while safeguarding the health of its members, many of whom are elderly, association president Joni Robertson said. Instead of coming into the center, clients now drive up to the pantry, and association volunteers place boxes filled with food in their trunks.
“We’re keeping it very limited because so many of the Ladies of Charity are older; we’re just trying to protect them,” Robertson said.
In addition, the food pantry is housed in a small area, “and we want to be able to keep the social distancing,” Robertson said.
The pandemic has hit close to home: one of the association’s members and her husband have been sick with COVID-19, and another has a brother who has been ill with the virus. Robertson said her members have been praying specifically for those members impacted by the coronavirus, but also for the greater community during this crisis.
The food pantry has seen an increase in requests of about 15 percent this past month. Robertson said they may consider opening more often on a limited basis if the need continues to rise.
The Center of Hope receives most of its food from the Utah Food Bank. In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides the pantry with a limited number fresh dairy items based on the pantry’s capacity. Normally, Our Lady of Lourdes School collects food to donate, but the school is closed and education is being offered remotely during the pandemic, so that collection isn’t taken place.
Nevertheless, donations from the community have increased, Robertson said. For example, a food drive at St. Olaf Parish the week before Easter brought in a significant amount of food, which was isolated for 72 hours to ensure there was no risk of contamination before it was put on the shelves, Robertson said.
“People really want to help,” she said, and although the food pantry is not rejecting individual food donations, “it’s tough; we have to make sure it isn’t contaminated.”
Association members also deliver monthly boxes of food to St. Patrick Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. Previously, volunteers distributed the boxes to parishioners and other families in need in the area, but now those families must drive to the church to pick up the food.
The members of the Salt Lake Ladies of Charity association are taking similar precautions. They normally deliver monthly boxes of food from Center of Hope to 30 families on six delivery routes throughout the Salt Lake Valley. Each family receives an average of two boxes of food in addition to fresh dairy items and fruit when available. This month, to protect the health of their members and to prevent any inadvertent spread of the virus, they mailed gift cards to the families they serve, president Jackie Harover said.
“Since we are an organization that has retired or mostly older ladies, we thought it would be the better part of valor not to do home deliveries this month,” she said.
This was possible because of a grant that enabled the association to buy gift cards, which were originally intended to allow clients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, but because of the pandemic the cards were given to the families so they could purchase food rather than have the boxes delivered.
Before sending out the gift cards, association members called all of the families they serve “to make sure they didn’t need something desperately,” Harover said. However, the amount of the gift cards probably does not cover the equivalent of a delivery, she said.
In addition, for the first time, the association sent out fruit and vegetable seed packets to the clients, which were put together by member Jenny McDonald, who had access to free seeds and who personally delivered the seed packets to the clients’ porches.
Harover said they called all the families to see who would be able to plant a garden.
“Boy, they jumped at that,” she said. “They were very excited about starting gardens.”
Harover said she doesn’t know what her association is going to do for its clients in May.
“If we need to, we will probably send them gift certificates,” she said. “If things lighten up we will probably deliver also; deliveries usually happen in the middle of the month.”
Financial donations may be sent to Ladies of Charity SLC, 1085 East 700 South, SLC, Utah 84102.