As Ruth drove up to Boyertown Area Multi-Service one recent afternoon, she was met with a supply of groceries.
“I just lost my husband two months ago,” the 74-year-old said from her driver seat. “I felt a little funny about coming here, but my sister told me ‘you worked all your life, if things are tough, go for it.’”
While Ruth’s husband’s death was unrelated to the virus, she finds herself in need as furloughs and layoffs sweep through communities and create a surged demand on food and essential items. More and more families and seniors rely on local food pantries and distribution sites.
“Our food pantry is now serving three times the amount of people it usually does,” said Lydia Messinger, executive director of the multi-service. “We have distributed about double the amount of food as normal just during the four weeks after the shutdown.”
As local nonprofits have rushed to meet the needs of the community, United Way of Berks County’s COVID-19 Response Fund has stepped in and awarded nearly 30 grants to sustain the tidal wave of demand for critical services.
United Way awarded the agency a grant in April, ensuring that vulnerable families and seniors in the eastern area of Berks do not go to bed hungry. During a four-week time period, Boyertown Area Multi-Services has given away 26,200 pounds of food to over 635 households, a 49 percent increase in the homes it usually serves. For agencies like Boyertown Area Multi-Service and others, Helping Harvest is the primary supplier in the community providing food for only the cost of delivery.
“I think this [the food distribution] is important to have for periods of hard times,” Ruth said, adding the shutdown and crisis after the death of her husband has been emotionally and financially difficult.
Ruth said her husband of 58 years regularly gave to the United Way through his union, and she is thankful United Way is committed to helping people in need.