Not everyone who is on the front lines wears a uniform. Those who provide services and assistance to those who need help with everyday needs are on the front lines as well. The impact of lost jobs and stay-at-home orders has made these types of organizations and volunteers busier than ever.
“Family issues and needs do not cease because of a pandemic. People still need to apply for programs, children need help and the elderly need to be checked upon,” said Stafford County Social Services Director Michael Muse. “Our work has not stopped. I am very proud of the courage and dedication our workers have shown to those who need us the most.”
Muse says they have seen a sharp uptick in the request for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Most benefits workers are teleworking and continuing to provide services. Although the building is closed, support staff are working in the office. The vestibule is open at Social Services, and clients can drop off paperwork via a lockbox Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sometimes, transactions have to be handled in person, such as handing over an E.B.T. card for SNAP.
Oversight over foster children, Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services continue to investigate and monitor cases. Mandated monthly foster care visits are modified to be carried out virtually during the pandemic. Investigations into allegations of abuse must still be managed in person. Emergency placements for children must also continue.
As well, Stafford County partners with over thirty-five community organizations whose work underpins the very existence of our community – especially during times of distress. Organizations that provide services such as meals to the homeless, needy and the elderly, among other types of service, have had to adjust to a new way of doing business.
Michal Ecumenical Ministries coordinates community meals 365 days a year with the help of local churches, the V.F.W. and Mars Hill. People depend upon those meals, but with the social distancing and stay-at-home rules, they cannot hold the typical group meals in church basements. Add to that the challenge of finding enough volunteers to assist who do not mind being on the front lines. Meals are now being handed out daily at the Micah Center at 1013 Princess Anne Street. They are also struggling with their limited funding to transition homeless folks into hotels into situations that comply with the Center for Disease Control’s social distancing recommendations.
Healthy Generations, formerly the Rappahannock Area Agency on Aging, is an organization that connects seniors with a wide array of resources specific to the elderly of all means of income. They are still delivering meals to the elderly. Their visiting program has been halted in exchange for telephone “visits” to break the isolation of the elderly, who have borne the brunt of the stay-at-home order.
S.E.R.V.E., Stafford’s food bank, has seen an increased need for services. They are asking for additional nonperishable items. They are providing curbside pick-up as a safety measure.
It is no surprise that the scope of the Coronavirus epidemic has many folks struggling with emotions, but for those who do not have the tools to always deal with upheaval, this time has proven to be more difficult.
Empowerhouse, a non-profit organization providing confidential domestic violence assistance, has experienced a 26% increase of calls to their confidential, 24-hour hotline. They continue to deliver services 24 hours/day-7 days/week domestic violence shelter and hotline services.
The Rappahannock Area Community Services Board is dedicated to the education, recovery, treatment, and wellness of those affected by mental health and substance use disorders and developmental disabilities. They have seen a 45% increase in emergency department visits for existing clients and anticipate that the post-pandemic could be even higher. They have had to utilize additional day support staff to assist group homes to maintain continuity of care. They are still providing outpatient therapy, medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, medical and case management services, just virtually instead of in-person.
Stafford is grateful to all who continue to impact and improve the lives of children, the elderly and those with mental and emotional difficulties. The community is stronger when it works together.