Adaptability in the Face of COVID-19

Jun 11, 2020

Responding to COVID-19 has been an exercise in adaptability for the Crystal Lake Salvation Army Corps Community Center, as it has been for most of our centers. Thankfully, adapting to the unique needs of a community is one of the hallmarks of The Salvation Army.

“We have seen a large increase in the requests for food,” said Major Barbara Owen, corps officer at Crystal Lake. This proved challenging because they didn’t host a food pantry prior to the coronavirus; a large county food pantry in their area covered most of the needs. But the lost wages and jobs caused by the pandemic suddenly flooded their community with requests.

The Crystal Lake center set up a temporary food pantry on Mondays and Fridays, thanks to a patchwork of generous donations and grants. “We received a grant from the Northern Illinois Food Bank to purchase food items as well as pet supplies, diapers, adult diapers, and more,” said Major Barbara. They also received meat and other foods from Chick-fil-A, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, and a variety of other local restaurants as part of a food rescue program.

They set up their pantry in the garage where they usually house their Emergency Disaster Services vehicle, and soon neighbors were coming to their makeshift check-in desk. “Our volunteers have been outstanding in pre-bagging some items as well as having a list of veggies and fruit for our clients to choose from,” Major Barbara said.

But securing food was only half the battle. They needed refrigerators and freezers to store perishables in until they can give them away. So they put out a request through their volunteer newsletter and word of mouth. Soon they received not one refrigerator, but three. And a freezer! “This has allowed us to be able to store things long term and plan ahead,” Major Barbara said.

Major Barbara has seen lots of young moms at their pantry. “Even though the schools are giving out food, the kids are home all day and sometimes it’s not enough.” Their food boxes help fill in those gaps.

One young mom who recently visited their center needed more than just food. She’d just lost her husband in a car accident. He had been the only one working, supporting their family of five, including one child still in diapers. “In addition to food, we paid off their utility bill,” Major Barbara said. “And we gave them three $50 Wal-Mart gift cards.”

Some of the center’s food pantry clients have been familiar faces, such as those who used to attend their weekly senior luncheon and bingo game. “It has been hard to see some of our regular seniors and members of our weekly activities and not reach out to hug them,” Major Barbara said, adding that she makes time to chat with these clients when they come to the pantry. “I think they’re just as hungry for that human connection.”

Hopefully, as our communities slowly reopen, those hugs will be coming soon.

Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus


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


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