Local Bay Area nonprofits, churches step up during coronavirus outbreak

coronavirus, food drive, food truck, food distribution
Volunteers helped distribute food March 20 to families in need at League City United Methodist Church. (Courtesy League City United Methodist Church)

Volunteers helped distribute food March 20 to families in need at League City United Methodist Church. (Courtesy League City United Methodist Church)

The less fortunate in the Bay Area are feeling the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak, but local nonprofits and churches are doing what they can to help them during this troubling time.

"We're hearing a lot of fear," said Gayle Nelson, executive director of Family Promise of Clear Creek, a nonprofit that helps homeless families transition into residences and employment.

On March 20, groups held at least two separate food-distribution events in the Bay Area to provide meals for struggling families. Organizers said they saw greater turnout than normal.

Terry Worthy, food distribution coordinator for League City United Methodist Church, said the church served 211 families. The previous distribution event two weeks prior served 170 families, she said.

"Our numbers were up last week, for sure," Worthy said.

That boost in numbers came despite the fact that the League City Rotary Club held a food-distribution event the same day, she said.

The club has partnered with the Galveston County Food Bank for close to four years to offer monthly food distributions. The one the club hosted Friday was an emergency distribution, similar to the one the group hosted right after Hurricane Harvey, said Amy Killgore, service projects chair for the club.

"We recognize in times of disaster, whether it's manmade or an act of God, that people are hungry," she said.

This emergency distribution differs from Harvey in several ways. For one, most businesses are still open in some way, whereas many shut down in the aftermath of Harvey, Killgore said.

Still, shelves are bare, and "people are hesitant to be out in public," Killgore said, which is why both the club and church conducted their food distributions as drive-thrus.

At both locations, families were able to drive up to receive their meals. This was new for the church, which typically has volunteers greet and talk to families receiving meals, Worthy said.

"This time we did it just drive-thru, which is harder because you don’t have the contact with the clients you normally have," Worthy said.

Worthy said the church's youth group showed up to help volunteer and give meals to families. She worries that the pandemic will get worse and eventually lead to mandates that restrict volunteering, which would have a negative effect on in-need families, she said.

"I worry about our clients if we can’t do it again," Worthy said. "I don’t think the community really understands how much need there is.”

Interfaith Caring Ministries is another local nonprofit that provides emergency rent, utilities assistance and food to families. Due to COVID-19, the nonprofit's retail shop has closed, and workers are operating remotely, according to an email from Director of Development Jessica Peterson.

"The demand for pantry essentials is critical for clients in need as they frantically search for various staple items, and necessary safety protocol has been implemented, including requesting the clients email their required documentation rather than bring in paper copies, wait in their vehicle and call to inform staff of food pantry donation pickup, and all client appointments are being conducted outside our office," Peterson wrote.

Interfaith Caring Ministries is seeking donations of crucial items, such as toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, wipes, pet food and more. Donations can be dropped off 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday at the nonprofit's office at 151 Park Ave., League City, she wrote.

Meanwhile, Nelson has also seen a growing need among the homeless.

Family Promise of Clear Creek helps recently evicted families by offering them churches to stay at while they receive instruction on how to land a job and apply for jobs to become self-sufficient. There was a surge in evictions at the beginning of the pandemic, she said.

"From the families that are calling in, they are fearful that they’re gonna be left out in the cold ... during this pandemic," Nelson said. "The fear is spreading.”

As part of the program, adults go to job interviews. A few have been canceled at the last minute due to the coronavirus outbreak, which means the families cannot get a job, move into their own apartments and leave the program to allow another in-need family to join, Nelson said.

"What's concerning our current families right now is the job market," she said.

Additionally, professionals who partner with the nonprofit to teach and help transition these families have been canceling appointments due to the outbreak. Some churches that typically host families are opting instead to put them in hotels to increase social distancing, Nelson said.

As far as the nonprofit goes, fundraising has halted. Family Promise of Clear Creek has enough funds to operate for 10 months, but it depends on fundraising to operate long term, she said.

Despite the challenges, the nonprofit will continue to do what it can to help those in need, Nelson said.

"We’re gonna take care of them as long as they need to be in the program, and this is certainly unusual circumstances," she said.

This story was updated at 6 p.m. March 24 with information from Interfaith Caring Ministries.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.



Another 1,372 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Harris County over the Sept. 19-20 weekend along with 48 deaths caused by the virus. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: Texas Medical Center positivity rate under 5% for two straight weeks

A low positivity rate is one of three metrics medical center officials are tracking that they say may indicate a declining spread of the virus.

The Kemah-based nonprofit has provided urban farm experiences to local youth since 2013. (Courtesy Gardenkids of Kemah)
Gardenkids of Kemah aims to help local youth 'protect, plant and play'

The nonprofit will participate in Eco Fest at Hometown Heroes Park in League City on Sept. 19.

Free COVID-19 testing will be available to festival staff, participants and patrons every weekend of the festival this fall. (Courtesy Steven David Photography)
Free COVID-19 testing at Texas Renaissance Festival and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Free COVID-19 testing will be available to festival staff, participants and patrons every weekend of the festival this fall. (Courtesy Steven David Photography)
Texas Renaissance Festival to offer free COVID-19 rapid testing throughout season

Additionally, a free drive-thru testing site will be set up in Todd Mission on Sept. 19.

According to a Texas Supreme Court order, all eviction notices in the state must be accompanied with the CDC eviction order's declaration form. (Courtesy Pexel)
Texas Supreme Court issues order strengthening CDC eviction moratorium

The action aims to strengthen a federal order that renters' advocates say has been falling short in eviction court.

Here is a roundup of local business news in Clear Lake and League City. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: Pizza Lounge new location coming soon and more

Here is a roundup of local business news in Clear Lake and League City.

Here are the latest coronavirus data updates for Galveston County. (Community Impact staff)
Galveston County removes many of Sept. 8 reported deaths; total now 139

The percentage of active COVID-19 cases has also dropped below 20% for the first time in September.

Dr. Sam Rolon is a physician for Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine in The Woodlands. (Courtesy St. Luke's Health)
Q&A: St. Luke's physician shares advice on flu season, vaccine and prevention

The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly all patients of all ages ahead of this year's flu season, Dr. Sam Rolon said.

student in mask
TEA launches statewide COVID-19 dashboard for public schools

The Texas Education Agency, in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, has launched its latest COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases in Texas public schools.

Houston Police Department is joining Harris County's cite-and-release program. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston Police Department to join Harris County cite-and-release program

Houston Police Department is joining Harris County's cite-and-release program.

Clear Creek ISD has more than 42,000 total students, about 65% of whom returned to in-person learning at the start of the 2020-21 school year. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
Clear Creek ISD superintendent search continues with board discussion of targets

The CCISD board of trustees have defined the 2020-21 superintendent targets that will be be used in the annual review process this spring during campus planning.

The Houston Food Bank is looking for more volunteers as it handles increased food distribution during COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)
Houston Food Bank: COVID-19 pandemic amplifies already-high food insecurity rates across region

Before COVID-19, the Houston Food Bank distributed about 400,000 pounds of food daily. That number has since increased to about 1 million pounds a day.