How the St. Charles Corps Is Blessing Their Neighbors with Bread, Books, and of Course, TP

Mar 19, 2020

“We’re all about the food right now,” said Lieutenant Dena Smith of The Salvation Army’s St. Charles (Tri-City) Corps Community Center. Usually, the center is a thriving hub of programs for all members of the family and community. While those have all been suspended for the time being to keep clients safe during the coronavirus outbreak, one mission remains: ensuring their neighbors have the food and other essentials they need.

The virus has required a few adjustment to the center’s ongoing food service. “Starting today, our food pantry is a drive-up service,” Lieutenant Dena said. Clients who have signed up for this regular provision of food receive two bags of groceries delivered right to their car. Also starting today, those who have children at home will receive age-appropriate books and toys as well to help keep them occupied while home from school. “Working parents have been hit hard,” Lieutenant Dena said. They hope this extra touch helps lighten their load.

In addition to their regular food pantry, which is stocked with canned goods and other staples, St. Charles is also offering a fresh food pantry, featuring produce, dairy, and bread in shelves and coolers outside. Clients pull up and no more than five at a time are able to select whatever they need, no pre-registration needed.

“We’re seeing people who have never utilized our services before,” said Lieutenant Dena. This is somewhat by design as she had been posting about their food pantry on community Facebook boards. “Some have told us, ‘I’m used to being on the giving side, not the receiving side.’”

The response to this extra assistance has been warm. “You made my kids’ day,” one mom told Lieutenant Dena. Another mom, whose husband lost his job and was worried about their three sons, said, “Because of you, our children will not go hungry.” Another expressed, “I can’t believe you have this!” when she saw bread at their pantry.

The food comes from the center’s regular partnership with local grocery stores. The books are courtesy of a local publishing company and their neighborhood library, which regularly donates books taken out of circulation.

Lieutenant Dena says she’s been impressed by the calm and measured way their clients have selected their food. “We haven’t seen any panic mode,” she said. “People are only taking what they need. And they’re being intentional about what they can freeze and what will last.”

Army staff give those who come for the fresh food pantry their social worker’s business card so they can sign up for the rest of their food offerings. Their social worker has received new clients in the past week from these referrals, and had seen an increase in requests for rent and utility assistance.

And, of course, there’s toilet paper. Every client receives four rolls. Lieutenant Dena had the foresight to order extra at the beginning of the crisis.

Still, she’s most excited about the toys and books. “In a pretty dark situation, we hope it offers a little bit of brightness.”

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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.

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