Saratoga County Nonprofits Under Strain To Provide For Increased Need

While for many of us the world seems to be on pause, as we practice social distancing and work from home, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that not everyone has the luxury to sit around in their pajamas while on a conference call. For those classified as “essential personnel,” such as grocery store cashiers and the heroic doctors we reported on earlier this week, being away from work isn’t an option. And for others, mass layoffs as a result of businesses closing their doors mean they no longer have a job—or an income.

Just last week, nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment. With companies across the nation laying off employees, more people than ever are left without a steady source of income. As a result, nonprofits that offer food and other services to those in need are receiving an overwhelming and unprecedented number of requests for support. In the past two weeks alone, Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (EOC), a local nonprofit dedicated to feeding at-risk populations, has served 14,000 people, providing 17,000 meals for Capital Region residents in need. “Just talking to the people when you ask what their needs are, you hear how desperate people are right now,” says Saratoga County EOC Executive Director Jo Anne Hume. “In some cases, two people in the household have lost their jobs, and it’s quite devastating to talk to those people over and over again who are experiencing such fear.”

Under normal circumstances (i.e. when Saratoga County isn’t in the midst of a global pandemic), the EOC operates a self-service food pantry. Recently, though, it’s switched gears to offer a food delivery service three days a week to reduce social contact. (Hume notes that deliveries are being made closer to five days a week to keep up with rising demand; EOC staffers have literally been working around the clock to keep Saratoga County fed.) “It’s all hands on deck,” Hume says. “We don’t see a day off in sight anytime soon.”

For obvious reasons, the EOC had to cancel its May 13 May Day Fundraiser, which normally provides the organization with enough funding to sustain operations for the whole year. Without those funds, it’s unclear how the EOC will continue to operate in the coming months. Hume’s hope is that people who are “nonessential workers,” but who have the means to help out, will volunteer to deliver meals, answer phones and make calls to schedule deliveries. Additionally, monetary donations are much needed and can be made on the EOC’s website.

Another local charity that’s had an increased strain put on its shoulders as a result of the COVID-19 crisis is the Veterans and Community Housing Coalition (VCHC). The nonprofit, which serves seven counties in Upstate New York from its Ballston Spa headquarters, provides housing and support services to veterans and their families. “The request for assistance is rising,” says VCHC Executive Director Cheryl Hage-Perez. “We get more and more calls every day. Veterans are especially vulnerable right now; many don’t have transportation to even get food for themselves.”

While VCHC staff continue to work remotely, delivering food to those in need, like the EOC, their supply is dwindling due to the sudden increase in demand. In order to keep Upstate New York’s vulnerable population fed, VCHC has created a GoFundMe page and has a Paypal link on its website for donations. “We’re very fortunate to be operating in such a generous community, and any donations are greatly appreciated,” Hage-Perez says.

Saratoga County EOC and VCHC are just two of many Capital Region nonprofit organizations working overtime to ensure that no one is left without food or other essential resources in the midst of the current public health crisis. (See: Shelters of Saratoga.) Despite their hard work, these organizations still need support. A full list of Saratoga County nonprofits in urgent need of help can be found here.

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