In these unsettling times, the response from social welfare agencies in St. Joseph has been one of helping the community — and each other.
The groups have come together to communicate and, in many ways, be each other’s biggest advocates.
Leading the list may be the ones who share “the list” with everyone, every day.
“I think it’s got right now over 1,600 different contacts on there,” AFL-CIO Director Penny Adams said of a list of information shared by local agencies. “We compile it every day.”
From the American Red Cross to the YMCA and YWCA, 60 organizations provide an outline of their reductions in services and daily updates every afternoon.
The United Way of Greater St. Joseph is hoping to fill any gaps left by federal and Missouri state governments through a COVID-19 Relief Fund.
The donations will stay primarily in Andrew and Buchanan counties in Missouri and Doniphan County in Kansas.
The organization knows how to share. Every year it raises money for 17 partner agencies, but the COVID fund will be a little different. United Way President Kylee Strough said it will be similar to last year’s flood relief fund.
“What we always try to do at the United Way is make sure our funding is a piece of the puzzle and that it’s complimentary to all other resources available,” Strough said. “What we learned through the flood relief fund was sometimes it’s the municipality that needs some emergency assistance, because their residents can’t pay their water bills or something like that.”
To find out more about the fund, go to stjosephunitedway.org/covid19.
Strough complimented AFL-CIO’s Help-Me-Now Hotline, which may eventually play a part in directing dollars.
Community members who may need help are encouraged to call AFL-CIO at 816-364-1131.
“We ask a lot of questions, but the more we know about them and their living arrangements, the better we can direct them to the resources that are out there,” Adams said.
One of the frequent calls they have received this past week was about outstanding utility bills. Spire and Evergy are not disconnecting service for nonpayment, but AFL-CIO reminds individuals that when the pandemic is over, those bills are likely to be enforced.
Community Action Partnership of Greater St. Joseph began working remotely March 18. The vast majority of other agencies, including the United Way, have followed suit.
CAP Executive Director Whitney Lanning estimates they receive more than 100 calls and messages every day.
“Our family support specialists, home visitors, all of those staff are reaching out to families on at least a weekly basis to kind of talk to them about what emerging needs that they have,” Lanning said.
However, one of the big things CAP workers can’t do from home is operate the Head Start programs. Under normal circumstances, the closure would have put a major strain on neighboring programs, but luckily regulations on day-care facilities have been relaxed to meet the current situation.
CAP is directing parents who need assistance to InterServ Early Care & Education at Mitchell Woods, La Petite Academy and One Step Ahead Early Learning.
“They’ve opened up and expanded their licensing to be able to care for kids whose parents work at Mosaic who are needing it or other health care professionals that are needing it,” Lanning said. “They can call us and we can put them in touch with that resource.”