WEST CHESTER — While he coronavirus crisis is making life unpleasant for many in Chester County, it's literally a life-or-death situation for those who are living below the poverty level.
That's because food cupboards must suspend volunteers from helping gather, sort and stock shelves, and go shopping with clients.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hook with people needing help," said Leah Reynolds, executive of Kennett Area Community Services. "This is tough on all of us. I just don't know how some places will weather this."
The Pennsylvania Department of Health Saturday confirmed that there are 103 additional positive cases of COVID-19 and one additional death in Allegheny County, bringing the statewide total to 371 in 28 counties. All are either in isolation or being treated at a hospital. The virus has so far sickened more than 278,000 people worldwide, killing almost 11,570. In the U.S., there have been almost 21,000 confirmed cases and 275 deaths.
Reynolds said people who were recently laid off are asking for assistance to get food on the table. And many of those workers have low-paying jobs, so they don't have much to fall back on.
She said she recently interacted with a family of eight in the Kennett area who are stuck at home, no transportation to get out, and have run out of food.
Reynolds said normally there around 70 volunteers help get food out, and they have been suspended. She said that while many people are stocking up on basics like toilet paper, bread and milk, low-income residents don't have that ability.
Local organizations and individuals are helping to get food to people who need it.
Individuals, families, and children impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and in need of emergency assistance will receive critical support and resources from two agencies of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Catholic Social Services and Nutritional Development Services .
"While we are all impacted by COVID-19, we must continue to have genuine care and concern for our neighbors in need," said Amy Stoner, director of Catholic Social Services. "During these uncertain times, CSS’ Family Service Centers will continue to build up and strengthen our communities for all those in need, regardless of the cause.”
Those in need of emergency food and diapers offered by CSS Family Service Centers can get them at St. Agnes Day Room 223 W. Gay Street, West Chester. In Montgomery County: Catholic Social Services, 353 E. Johnson Highway, Norristown. In Delaware County: St. Katharine Drexel Outreach Center, 1408 W. Second Street, Chester; Bernadine Center, 2625 West Ninth Street, Chester, BVM Parish Food Cupboard, 1101 Main Street, Darby and Catholic Social Srvices, 130 East Seventh Street, Chester.
For those in need of emergency food or diapers in Delaware County, call 610-876-7101, in Montgomery County call 610-279-7372.
And Avon Grove Charter School has been approved as a free meal provider during the crisis, and will be providing free meals on March 23 and March 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its campus at 110 East State Street. Grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals will be provided.
Kennett Consolidated School District has been providing lunches March 23 and March 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to those 18 and younger at St. Rocco Parish in Avondale, The Garage Youth Center in Kennett Square, and Chavelos Mexican Restaurant.
"Now more than ever, low-income families are depending on KACS," Reynolds said. "Many families are facing financial hardship, particularly low-wage service workers and other hourly employees, due to the severe slowdown in business over the Coronavirus spread."
For those struggling through the pandemic and need financial assistance for rent, utility bills, and other basic living expenses, call 610-925-3556 ext. 114. For housing assistance, call 610-925-3556 ext. 120. Walk-ins, and food donations, are not being accepted at the Resource Center of Kennett Area Community Services.
"KACS will give until we have nothing left to give," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said the best way to help others is to make an online donation at www.kacsonline.net.
"COVID-19 is creating new needs while putting enormous financial pressure on all nonprofits," Reynolds said. "Contributions make it possible for KACS to continue providing much-needed help during this crisis. That is what would be most useful at this time.