Local nonprofits stretched to meet community needs

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A volunteer delivers for Meals on Wheels in Denton County (photo courtesy of the United Way of Denton County).

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone in Denton County, including those who help others in need.

Many businesses had to close because of executive orders from the county and state governments, causing a huge spike in unemployment. From March 15 to April 18, more than 41,000 Denton County residents filed unemployment claims, according to unofficial statistics from the Texas Workforce Commission.

And now, local nonprofits are working with fewer donations to meet higher demand.

“The depth of the impact of this crisis is felt across the county with nonprofits stretched to their limits to try to respond to the need,” said Gary Henderson, president and CEO of United Way of Denton County.

For food pantries and food banks, it’s gotten harder to get the products, as grocery stores struggle to keep up with demand. Tom Newell, director of the Denton Community Food Center, said his organization is “burning through our stock.”

“I don’t think our shelves will go dry, but I am concerned that we’re struggling to get products through the market,” Newell said. “Food is going through here quickly.”

Many food pantries and other nonprofits in the area are experiencing the same thing.

“The common thread with local social services organizations is that a lot of their contacts have dried up, wholesalers don’t have what we need,” Newell said. “It hasn’t drowned us, but it’s really challenging us.”

Newell said the best way to help is with a monetary donation online at dentoncfc.org or in the mail.

Lewisville-based Christian Community Action is also struggling to keep up with the demand. It has teamed up with Preferred Self Storage, 8301 Justin Road in Double Oak, for a new contactless food pantry drop-off location. Donations of nonperishable food items, toiletries, paper products and other essentials are accepted between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

The North Texas Food Bank (ntfb.org) has adjusted its operations efforts significantly due to COVID-19. Partner agencies have been asked to change their distributions to drive thru models that allow for social distancing.

“This is a trying time for North Texans,” said Teresa Jackson, Executive Director of Sharing Life, one of NTFB’s Feeding Network member agencies. “The demand for food assistance will continue to grow in the coming weeks that means that we will need to provide more food than ever before. Because we must implement a drive thru model for the safety of our neighbors and staff, these boxes of food are vitally important. We are grateful for the generosity of donors who are enabling this important work.”

Lovepacs Lewisville (lovepacs.org/lewisville) has stepped up since Lewisville ISD began distance learning, because many students rely on getting their meals at school. Usually, Lovepacs works to send food home with kids before extended school holidays, and now it is helping to keep students fed over the weekends.

“As a nonprofit, we are still operating from community donations,” said Hillery Cross, team lead for Lovepacs Lewisville (which includes Flower Mound and Highland Village). “Any food we hand out has been provided in some way by our community.”

Argyle-based Mission Moms is also coordinating free meals for underprivileged Denton ISD families. Learn how you can help at missionmoms.org.

The challenges of the pandemic are also affecting other organizations, like Denton County Friends of the Family, which aids domestic violence victims, and Journey to Dream’s Kyle’s Place, which houses homeless teenagers.

“There is so much anxiety among all of us now,” said Journey to Dream CEO Nesa Grider. “It is crucial that we remember that together we are better.”

In April, the Denton County Commissioners Court allocated $735,000 to the United Way of Denton County (UWDC) and its COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund. In May, the county allocated an addition $330,000.c

Photo courtesy of Denton County

“We believe this donation is vital to assist United Way of Denton County in working with our nonprofit agencies countywide to ensure the needs of residents struggling during this COVID-19 pandemic are met,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads.

The UWDC will use that money and other donations to fulfill grant requests from 15 nonprofits providing rental, food and other relief across the county, including CASA of Denton County, Children’s Advocacy Center, Christian Community Action, Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home, Denton County Friends of the Family, First Refuge Ministries, Grace Like Rain, Hearts for Homes, Journey to Dream, Metrocrest Services, Metroport Meals on Wheels, Mission Moms, NTX Community Food Pantry, PediPlace, and Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center.

“Nearly 200 families have received eviction prevention assistance from the COVID-19 Relief Fund,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell. “Our hope is that continued support of this program will continue to make a difference in our residents’ lives.”

If you need help, visit unitedwaydenton.org/community-resources for a list of local resources. Denton County and UWDC are helping coordinate prospective volunteers with organizations that need the help. Visit dentoncounty.gov for more information about how you can volunteer locally.

About The Author

Mark Smith

Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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