Salvation Army Disaster Services 2020/2021
Thanks to the generous support of our donors, The Salvation Army’s Southern New England Division was able to provide critical mass care during the COVID-19 pandemic this past year.
Specifically, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, our 23 Corps (church) facilities and 49 Service Units suspended non-emergency activities allowing us to increase our capacity to address the crisis. With this unified focus, we were able to distribute over 4 million meals to Connecticut and Rhode Island residents to date.
“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. One of the differences with the pandemic is there has been no clear line between response and recovery. Response and recovery are almost overlapping because we can’t really recover since we’re still responding.”
- Brenda Downing, Social Service Director, The Salvation Army Southern New England Division
Donor support played a vital role in equipping us to effectively respond to the needs of such a tremendous amount of people and allowed us to quickly develop and implement an action plan to address widespread food insecurity. Specifically, we transitioned several of our Corps into food distribution hubs to address increasing gaps in the food supply chain that had become insurmountable. Through these hubs, strategically located throughout Connecticut in Ashford, Bridgeport, East Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury, our staff and volunteers received, packaged, and distributed food to our Corps and Service Units. During this unprecedented time, our food costs dramatically increased to nearly $1 million this past year, up from approximately $14,000 in any given previous year.
The Salvation Army was also able to quickly mobilize emergency food resources from Massachusetts to address emerging needs in Connecticut by utilizing existing relationships with food vendors and disaster partners across the region. Through these connections, we were able to provide food resources that other organizations were unable to secure. In fact, from April 2020 through June 2020, we supplied Connecticut Foodshare (which serves over 260 food pantries, meal programs, and Mobile Foodshare sites) with additional emergency food boxes to distribute through their partner networks.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, as the State of Connecticut was developing its COVID feeding task force, The Salvation Army has been a major partner in providing impactful solutions. This task force consists of local, state, and federal agencies, along with VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) - all key partners which meet regularly. Our Regional Emergency Disaster Services Director is the current Co-Chair of VOAD.
Throughout the pandemic, emergency management agencies across the country have shared how they have struggled with getting food into the homes of those that need it. In some cases, the cause has been food scarcity and gaps in the supply chain, as noted above, while in other cases households that were isolating or in quarantine were simply unable to leave their homes to get to stores. In several cities in Connecticut, due to a unique partnership we developed with DoorDash (an on-demand food delivery service), 211, and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, we were able to overcome many roadblocks to getting food into the hands of high-risk populations, such as the elderly and the disabled. Through this partnership, United Way’s 211 receives referrals on behalf of these vulnerable populations, and coordinates with The Salvation Army and Door Dash to deliver pre-packed food boxes each week. Each box contains about 23 meals. The cities served by this program are Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, Torrington, and Waterbury. As a result of these expanded services, we have been able to leverage $700,000 through a partnership with the State of Connecticut to cover some of these additional food costs.
In November 2020, The Salvation Army and the State of Connecticut expanded its partnership to also serve those who have been identified as food insecure via the State of Connecticut’s COVID testing sites. Specifically, each person who arrives to be tested is asked if they have enough food to quarantine until they receive their test results. Those that do not are immediately provided with food, which is placed in their vehicle’s trunk. Through our relationship with the Department of Agriculture, we received $3.6 million to purchase additional food boxes for the DoorDash and Testing Site programs totaling over 2 million meals. We also supply additional food boxes to those that have tested
positive so that they can quarantine for 2 weeks.
In most cases, immediate disaster response takes between 4 to 8 weeks. However, our disaster response services have been ongoing for over 1 year. As our Divisional Social Services Director, Brenda Downing said, “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. One of the differences with the pandemic is there has been no clear line between response and recovery. Response and recovery are almost overlapping because we can’t really recover since we’re still responding.”
Emotional and Spiritual Care
Due to the unprecedented duration of this disaster, the pandemic has taken its toll on those providing response and recovery services as well. To address this, we are working to provide emotional and spiritual care in a way that traditionally was only provided to the clients we serve: With support from the New England Disaster Chaplain Association, on which our Regional Emergency Disaster Services Director serves as
Co-Chair, we piloted a 2-hour Self Care and COVID training. Participants have already shared that the training was very helpful, stating that it helped them to slow down, to practice self-care, and realize that they are not alone in their struggles. Due to the success of the pilot, we shared this training with our officers in late February in our Southern New England Division and are working to make it available to officers in Massachusetts as well.
Looking ahead, our disaster response and recovery efforts in 2021 will continue to focus on ensuring that all in need have access to food for themselves and their families. We have also begun to assist clients with rent, mortgage, and utility assistance. We anticipate that this need will increase exponentially as the eviction moratorium is lifted.
We are enormously grateful to you for making this work possible, and look forward to keeping you informed of our EDS impact in the future.
Further information: Jennifer M. Dejohn @ 860-539-1480 or email@example.com