Last year at this time, our Center was buzzing with people coming to learn English, welding, construction, and forklift operation, among other employment skills. They were coming for help accessing education, government programs and other assistance. And, of course, they came for food, diapers and household goods.
Flash forward 12 months and inside the Center you can no longer hear the machines used for training or a teacher explaining the meaning of a word. The waiting area is empty, and my office has taken on a strange new look that resembles my home library. The distribution floor is constantly filled with large boxes of food, ready to be bagged and hauled to our parking lot, which is partially covered with a big, circus-like tent. Five days a week, our staff and the Nebraska National Guard place bags of food and diapers into the vehicles of families who are struggling. And we now have more than 650 new clients.
It’s a strange new world, but one in which the Center for People in Need is well suited. Our building has the space to bag and hold food enough to feed the increase in families needing assistance. Our new, large refrigeration and freezer units allow us to store perishable foods, and our parking lot is big enough to handle the 1,200 or so vehicles that drive through each week.
Most importantly, our staff, many of whom worked as teachers and administrative support before the pandemic, have stepped up with enthusiasm. They display incredible determination to “make it work” through countless changes and are committed to serving our community through the crisis.
I’m very proud to be associated with the Center for People in Need, and grateful to so many donors and community members like you, who support our work. I’m more than ready for COVID-19 to leave our lives, but while it’s still here, I’m glad the Center stands strong to buffer its impact.