WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW)-- While preparing for more traffic than usual, The Neighbors’ Place in Wausau is making significant changes to its day to day operations to help keep workers and staff members healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak.
(The Neighbors' Place is asking customers to wait outside while volunteers bring food to them. WSAW photo taken 3-19-20)
“We’ve suspended all of our programs,” said Donna Ambrose, the food bank’s executive director. “The only thing we are doing right now is providing groceries to those people that need us.”
Ambrose says they have lost a lot of volunteers, with most being senior citizens, the age range health officials say are most susceptible to COVID-19, still, she says employee optimism is high as they continue to work through this fluid situation.
“We’re determined to be here for the duration and every day might look different, hours of service might look different, we might have staggered shifts,” explained Ambrose. “Nobody on our team has shied away from that. Everyone is on board, all hands on deck and ready to do whatever it takes.”
Right now, whatever it takes includes employees taking carts of food out to guests while they wait on the sidewalk.
“We had to suspend our shopping model, due of course to people touching and being in close proximity,” said Ambrose. “We’ve got a system that’s working pretty well for us right now, and I say ‘Now’ because it’s a day to day operation right now. It’s important because we want our folks to come back, to be healthy, to be safe.”
Ambrose says the same rules are in place in terms of visits. Guests can visit two times a month to get supplies including food and personal hygiene. She encourages any household or family struggling to make ends meet during this time to use the resources available.
“It’s difficult, especially if you’ve never been in a position if you’ve needed the help. There’s a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety. Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed, come out,” encouraged Ambrose. “During this pandemic, we want people to stay healthy, and if it helps to stretch your disposable income, absolutely, you should come and do that.”
People are encouraged to follow the Neighbors’ Place Facebook page for updates on food pick-up procedures. Also, for family members who would like to pick up food for a loved one, a proxy form is available to fill out on the food bank’s website, neighborsplace.org.
“In particular, we’re very concerned homebound seniors, maybe somebody that has a disability and can’t come to us,” said Ambrose. “If you know someone like that, certainly go to our website, get this form and you can pick up groceries on their behalf.”