Finding an Open Door
It's been more than a year since business in Fountain County ground to a halt and local factories shuttered their doors against a growing pandemic. Diana DeSutter had spent the past decade volunteering for The Salvation Army, but those first next few months were like none she had ever seen. It seemed as though every household in her tight-knit community was impacted by COVID-19.
“In the beginning, people didn’t think about applying for food assistance because they had never been put in that position,” Diana explained. “Then the bills they were not able to pay came due. Once the food situation was sorted out, they had to find a way to keep the lights on. It all hit at once.”
Diana worked diligently to connect households with Salvation Army funds that had been given a much-needed boost by a COVID-19 grant from the Lilly Endowment. But as the pandemic continued and weeks turned into months, more challenges arose in Diana’s rural community. The manufacturing jobs were coming back, but not at the levels they had been before the shutdowns. Job security was at an all-time low, and Diana began to see a new wave of applicants – parents forced to leave the workforce to care for their children.
Emily was a single mom who had a good-paying job at a local factory. She had never struggled to support her daughter, but all that changed when the young girl was exposed to COVID-19 at school. Emily had to take time off from work to stay home with her daughter during a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. In the end, they both tested negative and returned to work and school.
“Unfortunately, just three weeks later Emily’s daughter was exposed again and had to stay home another fourteen days,” shared Diana. “Her parents were elderly, so she wasn’t going to ask them to stay with her child when she’s possibly been exposed.”
When Emily’s daughter was sent home for a third time just before the holidays, the factory terminated Emily’s position.
That’s when Emily turned to The Salvation Army, unsure what to do in unfamiliar territory. Diana quickly made sure that Emily had funds to get food from a local grocery store and pay her utility bills. With her situation stabilized, Emily started the long process of finding work in a tight job market. Today Emily is happily employed and life is beginning to return to normal, but she’ll never forget that when all the doors started to close, an unexpected one opened at The Salvation Army.