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By Robert Mitchell
Partnerships have been an ongoing storyline as The Salvation Army battles the COVID-19 pandemic. That has never been truer than in the state of Connecticut.
Governor Ned Lamont recently announced a collaborative effort among state agencies, private businesses, and non-profits such as The Salvation Army to provide food boxes for at-risk residents in Waterbury, Bridgeport, Torrington, and Danbury.
Among the other partners are the United Way and DoorDash, an on-demand food delivery service.
The program, operated by the state Department of Agriculture, is simple: people in need of food (who may be quarantining and can’t get out) call United Way 2-1-1 and convey their need. The requests are forwarded to The Salvation Army, which provides food boxes, each containing about 30 meals.
DoorDash drivers pick up the boxes from The Salvation Army and make home deliveries.
Major Gregory Hartshorn, divisional commander for the Southern New England Division, said, “While The Salvation Army has been actively serving food boxes to families in Connecticut since last March, we are especially grateful for this new partnership with the State of Connecticut, United Way 2-1-1, and DoorDash, so we can ensure that people in quarantine may continue to have meals delivered to their places of residence.”
Brenda Downing, the Southern New England Division’s social services director, said DoorDash drivers show up at the corps once every two weeks to pick up the white, branded Salvation Army boxes emblazoned with the familiar red shield.
“The lift on our end is easy,” Downing said. “We purchase the boxes pre-packed. We literally have to get the boxes from our warehouse to the corps locations once every two weeks.
Downing said The Salvation Army has provided 947 food boxes in the last seven weeks. She expects the program to continue until at least the end of December.
“The state is paying for the food boxes,” she said. “They’re really supporting the fact that The Salvation Army can bring not only resources to the stage, but by virtue of how large our agency is, we have 17 corps throughout the state. So our footprint is large. It makes sense to work with such a large agency that has such a far reach.
“It’s going well. The goal is that, once the contact tracing really gets off the ground, we’ll have these resources in the state for the next few months. They will help resolve the food shortage issues for people who also need to quarantine.”
The boxes are filled with non-perishable foods, including canned goods, apple sauce, rice, beans, peanut butter, tuna, and granola. Recipients are those identified as homebound and high-risk individuals, typically over 65 years of age.
“This pandemic forced our state to think outside the box when it has come to the delivery of services, and even the delivery of food to those who need it,” Governor Lamont said. “This collaboration is critical to making sure families across our state do not go hungry, and it’s a creative use of resources to help so many of our residents get through this crisis, which has impacted both our public health and our economy.”
Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt also had praise for the partnership.
“This is an example of individual organizations stepping up and coming together, being creative, and utilizing existing systems to meet the needs of our residents during the pandemic,” Hurlburt said. “I commend our partners for their flexibility, dedication, and collaboration to ensure that high-risk individuals have access to food during their time of need.”
Downing said she leads or is a part of several working groups in the state that involve The Salvation Army.
“This is a great example of where the state and non-profits work together,” she said. “It’s really been an amazing opportunity for us. We’ve been doing that a lot in the state.”
CALM BEFORE THE STORM?
Downing said her next concern is to help people once the COVID-19 moratoriums are lifted on delinquent rents and mortgages, which could happen Oct. 1. She has heard there could be as many as 40,000 evictions.
“There’s going to be significant need and I keep saying I really do believe we’re in the calm before the storm, at least here in our area,” she said.
Downing said when Hurricane Sandy hit eight years ago, the Southern New England Division handled disaster case management for four years. She called COVID-19 “definitely unprecedented times.”
“The pandemic is unlike any other disaster. Normally with a disaster, you respond when the disaster hits—a tornado, a hurricane, a flood—and it happens over days and then you start to do recovery,” she said. “One of the differences with the pandemic is there has been no clear line between response and recovery. We’re still responding to the pandemic.
“Response and recovery are almost overlapping because we can’t really recover since we’re still responding. We haven’t been able to stop the disaster yet so we can recover.”