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.



Karen Waldrup (top) and The Soul Rebels (bottom) both had to cancel shows scheduled in Houston due to coronavirus. (Photo illustration by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston-area musicians go virtual to play for fans amid coronavirus cancellations of live shows

As non-essential businesses like bars and music venues are forced to close due to coronavirus concerns, musicians find themselves performing for audiences behind computer screens and asking for virtual tips.

While the agency is still tallying the number of unemployment insurance claims filed thus far in March, in the week prior to March 25, at least 150,000 claims had been filed. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Official: Increase in calls for statewide unemployment benefits is ‘almost vertical’

According to Serna, on an average day the Texas Workforce Commission’s four call centers statewide receive 13,000-14,000 calls; on March 22, the agency received 100,000 calls regarding unemployment insurance benefit inquiries.

DATA: Cases, recovery rates and death rates for COVID-19 in the Greater Houston area

A total of 441 cases of coronavirus have been identified in the Greater Houston area as of March 26.

Several restaurants in Tomball and Magnolia are having to adjust their business operations as social distancing practices take shape. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Stay up to date on how businesses across the Greater Houston area are adapting to coronavirus

Find local businesses and nonprofits to support as they grapple with coronavirus-related restrictions through our area guides.

Space Center Houston stock photo, SCH
With Bay Area's tourism destinations closed, economic impact looms

As local tourist destinations are forced to close along with many businesses, the economy is feeling the effects, though it is too early to tell what the long-term impact may be, officials said.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is developing a tool to streamline the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a news release. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UTMB developing tool to help create COVID-19 vaccine

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is developing a tool to streamline the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a news release.

United Way of Greater Houston and Greater Houston Community Foundation launched the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund with a focus on supporting those services that provide access to food, health care, shelter, utility assistance, transportation, and more in Harris, Fort Bend, Waller, and Montgomery counties. (Courtesy YMCA of Greater Houston)
With $1 million starting gift from Houston Endowment, new COVID-19 recovery fund looks to address critical needs

A new recovery fund has been launched to help those in critical need because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Greg Abbott so far has not issued a similar order statewide(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
President Trump declares major disaster in Texas due to coronavirus

The declaration came as several Texas cities, including Houston, have issued stay-at-home orders.

Airlines and airport business may be able to defer payments to the Houston Airport System for several months due to coronavirus concerns. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Airlines, airport businesses may be able to defer $180 million in payments to Houston Airport System

The airline industry and associate businesses may see some relief from fees paid to the Houston Airport System.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he is in negotiations with hotels regarding temporary quarantine sites for first responders, city employees and homeless residents. (Courtesy Houston HTV)
Houston accepts $5 million grant for temporary housing, extra supplies in coronavirus battle

Mayor Sylvester Turner is in talks with area hotels about providing rooms for quarantined first responders, city employees and homeless residents.

Back to top