ACS Continues to Serve Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

“It is a privilege for Adventist Community Services to be able to share our resources with various centers around America. As food is distributed to those in need we find a beautiful illustration of the work of God of providing the bread of life to a world in need,” – Dan Jackson, President of North American Division.

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Fresno ACS Center in California.

Adventist Community Services entities around our Division continue to provide relief and meet the needs of their community in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Below are some updates shared with us on the challenges that this crisis has caused them, and some ways they have adapted in addressing and meeting the needs of their community.

 

  1. Portland ACS Center (PACS) has remodeled their food pantry to keep fighting hunger during this critical time. PACS drive-thru food box model helps lessen person-to-person contact and keeps providing nutritious food. To also help homebound families, Pastor Mark Witas from Sunnyside SDA Church has been delivering food boxes to nearby families who are at high risk or immuno-compromised. Last week PACS served 1,350 families under the leadership of Laura Pascoe, Executive Director of PACS.
  2. Texas Conference ACS and ACS DR personnel are continuing to minister and provide help where needed. They have donated 900 personal care kits to the Mesquite SDA Church who is partnering with the non-profit agency, Sharing Life. They will be handing these kits out to those in need, especially the elderly. Click here to see a video of Marshall Gonzales, Texas Conference ACS and ACS DR Director, with Pastor Will Klinke from the Mesquite Church.
    Texas ACS has also given out 384 N-95 masks to the local fire station to help in their shortage, and 800 N-95 masks and 225 Personal Protective Equipment suits to the Johnson County Emergency Management agency for the medical staff and first responders in the county. “They were very appreciative for the items due to the fact that some doctors were not able to see patients because they did not have the masks and some first responders were going out to help people without any protection for themselves,” said Marshall.
  3. Iowa-Missouri Conference ACS is receiving multiple requests to manage inventory control for personal protective equipment (PPE) for jurisdictions. Jody Dickhaut Missouri ACS DR Coordinator for the IA-MO Conference, and his team are getting set up in St. Louis for Region C in the state that will cover 11 counties and the city of St. Louis. They have been requested to do the same in Region A that covers greater Kansas City. They have also lined up Penske trucks to provide transportation services for PPEs to deliver to specific locations around the state.
  4. Michigan Conference – Local ACS clothing centers in Michigan have closed with an emergency phone number on the door in case of a dire clothing need. However, food pantries are still open and fortunately have a lot of food at this point. Extra measures have been taken with phone calls only with food being taken to the cars or given out of doors. Volunteers have been informed about excessive cleaning and sanitizing, along with gloves being worn at all times. No at-risk volunteers are being utilized at this time.Pastors, church officers, and ACS directors are working together to call the elderly and shut-ins to check on them. East Lansing University Church is taking it a step further by dividing the members to their home areas of the cities with a detailed plan and shopping route to assess their needs, especially those who are at risk.Personal Care Kits are also available as needed. The Michigan ACS DR Team is overseeing these activities, and is keeping their constituents informed through videoconferencing on what is going on and what they can do to help or donate.
  5. Upper Columbia Conference – Several churches within the Upper Columbia Conference were picking up groceries for older and disabled members until the “stay-at-home” order was declared in Washington state. A couple of churches are looking to sponsor a blood drive which is not considered a “mass gathering”. Churches who have been partnering with Family Promise, a non-profit organization that connects homeless families with churches who provide them shelter and support, are finding it challenging to continue helping amid this crisis. However, the Post Falls SDA Church in Idaho has quickly answered a new Shelter-in-Place plan with Family Promise offering two families a safe haven for the next two weeks. Church members will still leave food outside the door of the church, but will have no face-to-face contact. This church has also put in washers/dryers and showers.
    The Newport SDA Church had closed down their ACS thrift store ministry several years ago and the space was being utilized for a fellowship hall. “Never underestimate the power of God in repurposing – even temporarily — a space that once was dedicated to serve others,” said Patty Marsh, ACS Director of Upper Columbia Conference. The church pastor’s wife, Becky Anderson, has reported that their church is allowing the local health workers to stage a sleep, rest area at their ACS building. There is also a kitchen, showers, laundry, Wi-Fi, etc. for those who don’t want to go home. Church members have agreed to bring in beds and sofas. In addition, they are allowing RVs for health workers to park in their lot.
    Individuals in good health and under 60 are responding to the call for volunteers to assist in manning a drive-through COVID-19 screening at the fairgrounds. The Spokane Better Living Center food pantry became a drive-thru food bank last week with the greatest number the director had ever served in one day coming through. Also, volunteers above the age of 60 have been asked to enjoy a well-deserved sabbatical while new, young volunteers attempt to fill their shoes.Gayle Haeger and fellow coordinators of the STEAM Ahead @ Discovery Junction ministry is preparing a fun “things-to-do kit” to send to children so they can continue their science/technology/engineering/arts/math learning at home while furloughed from school.
  6. Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington (ACSGW) is offering food and hygiene items for families whose kids would normally receive meals at school but won’t be during the school closures.
  7. Chesapeake Conference ACS is mapping and updating an inventory of human resources and food pantries available to serve in coordination with Maryland and Delaware food banks and given volunteers state safety protocols. The Carolina Conference and the Allegheny East Conference also has a number of food pantries that remain open, and when serving their communities they limit their personal contact as much as possible.
  8. Northeastern Conference – Ninety-nine percent of all community outreach centers of the Northeastern Conference are open in NY, Western NY, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. One soup kitchen remains open. All food pantries are still open, and the demands have exceeded their expectations. Bags with food supplies are being prepared and delivered to older adults. Volunteers also pick up prescriptions upon request. One of the challenges that they are facing is the lack of surgical masks.
  9. Pennsylvania Conference’s Hamburg SDA Church continues to run their monthly food pantry. The conference ACS Director Jeannette Dare, has shared the following tips on how to support community members during this time, especially senior citizens who are housebound due to high health risks:

• Prepare packages and make post office runs for senior citizens.

• Help prepare for their medical needs: Create a customized seven-day supply of medicines or include backup batteries for equipment they use. Locate where they must go should their medical facility close.

• Open churches for child-care for children and grandchildren of health care workers while schools are closed.

• Make and deliver World Health Organization’s recipe for homemade hand sanitizer.

World Health Organization’s Recipe for Hand Sanitizer:
1+ 2/3 cups 91 percent Isopropyl Alcohol
2 teaspoons Glycerol
1 tablespoon Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Distilled Water
Spray Bottle
**Glycerol keeps hands moisturized from drying out. If glycerol is unavailable, use moisturizing cream after applying mixture.

• Prepare an emergency grab-and-go bag (e.g., flashlight, blanket, ready-to-eat meals, etc.), and photocopy and include ID and medical insurance cards for senior citizens.

• Provide transportation for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program who offer free tax help for seniors over 60. Certified IRS volunteers specialize in pensions and retirement-related tax counseling. VITA receives grants from the IRS.

• Pre-plan how family members will get in touch with one another. Prepare phone numbers and email addresses for them, and choose an out-of-town person whom they all can contact to check in.

•Provide Beginner Computer 101 instruction and resource contact information.

“We will do our part to serve others while mitigating and minimizing the risk to our own ACS volunteers and church members. We must be keeping all of us in our thoughts and prayers as we journey through this tribulation together. And remember “grace”: to give and receive grace in our dealings with our family, our volunteers, our community, and the world,” – Sung Kwon, Executive Director of North American Division Adventist Community Services.