Coronavirus

Local Groups Are Stepping Up To Help During The COVID-19 Pandemic. Here’s How.

Houston-based organizations large and small are trying to help people most in need, collecting clothing, food and other supplies.

A Houston Food Bank volunteer helps box food during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, some of the city's most vulnerable populations still lack basic supplies and food.

But Houston-based organizations large and small are trying to fill that gap, making an effort to help those in need with clothing, food and other supplies.

One of those is Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture, who last week announced a partnership with Kroger and the City of Houston to feed seniors in need.

McIngvale said his locations are taking donations of non-perishable food, toiletries and bottled water to deliver to homebound seniors.

“Thousands have already benefited from the generosity of amazing Houstonians and we will continue to do our best to lead these efforts," McIngvale said in his announcement.

Other organizations, like the Houston Food Bank, are continuing to provide meals to those who are quarantined as a result of the coronavirus.

The group is looking for food donations, as well as in-person volunteers at its locations. But for those who want to help while staying indoors, the nonprofit said it was also helping people set up "virtual food drives."

Adele Brady, a spokesperson from the Houston Food Bank, said the group has increased its efforts as the virus has spread.

"We have ramped up distribution to continue to meet the critical need for food that has increased due to the COVID-19 situation, specifically for the vulnerable population including people who don't have other access to food, are impacted by school closings, those whose work hours have been cut, etc.," Brady said in an email.

Volunteers at the Houston Food Bank are taking on extra precautionary measures to ensure that all of the food kits that are being packed are safe.

"We are practicing social distancing with volunteers and staff, volunteers' temperatures are taken and we have a ‘wash-in and wash-out policy' – they are asked to wash hands when they arrive and when they leave, and there are stations to do so all during their shift," Brady said.

As demand for meals increases however, Brady said there are some unforeseen issues that have emerged.

"Not being able to pull from our disaster ‘playbook' as much is a new challenge, but one that we are adding to each day with this new scenario," Brady said.

Interfaith Ministries works with vulnerable populations, including helping new refugees adapt to life in the United States.

Last week, the group collaborated with Tan and Tu Nguyen, former refugees and owners of Nationwide Nail Supply, for a donation of gloves, masks, hand sanitizers, and other supplies in widespread shortage.

Ali Al Sudani, chief programs officer with Interfaith, said serving through a pandemic leads to unique challenges — both logistically, and personally.

"When it comes to the hardest part of working through this environment, it is the emotional toll that everyone is carrying with them right now, and the need to adjust your operations on a daily basis," Al Sudani said.

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