Local non-profits adjust to CDC social distancing recommendations

LINCOLN, Neb. - While COVID-19 is closing businesses , non-profits say they're ramping up their efforts.

Volunteers bring "to-go" meals to Lincoln's homeless population. (Source: KOLN)

"As services are more and more limited, we see the same amount of need in the community, if not more," said Lisa Janssen, The Gathering Place Program Administrator. "Access to healthy nutritious meals is more important than ever. We're going to continue that with our precautions and safety measures in place."

Monday through Friday, Lincoln's homeless and hungry population can count on The Gathering Place for a hot meal.

"We serve an average of 120 meals every night," Janssen said.

Now, thanks to CDC recommendations for social distancing and limiting groups to less than 10, The Gathering Place is making a few changes.

All meals are now "to-go."

"Community Action is here for the community," said Heather Loughman, Communications and Development Director. "We're here always, but especially during this time. Our charge is to always be flexible and adapt, and I'm proud we are doing that in this ever-changing time right now."

Volunteers say social distancing has come as a bit of an adjustment.

"We've been doing this since 2012, so we've come to know these people and call them by their first names, and we don't get to see them," said Justin Rousseau.

But while the way we interact may be changing, the need is the same. And so is a sense of community in this unprecedented time.

"It's always been important," said Isabel Rousseau. "There's no changing that. It's always been important."

In addition to to-go meals at The Gathering Place, Community Action Partnership is making other changes.

In conjunction with Lincoln Public Schools closing, Community Action’s three Lincoln Head Start centers are not providing on-site services to children and families through April 3rd.

The program is, instead, focusing its attention on supporting families by connecting them to community resources, addressing immediate needs, and bringing supplies such as educational materials, diapers, wipes, and formula.

“The decision to suspend our center-based services through April 3rd was difficult, but the right one to ensure the health and safety of our employees and families based on guidance received from public health experts and our funding agency,” said Jill Bomberger, Early Head Start and Head Start Director. “We are dedicated to continuing to serve our families in alternative ways during this time.”

In addition, Community Action will be closing its office lobbies in Lincoln (210 O Street) and Wahoo (365 W. 1st Street) to walk-in visitors effective at close of business on Friday, March 20th.

The agency will continue to provide services to its participants during this time while implementing additional pre-screening procedures before doing so.

Those requesting emergency assistance with rent and utilities may contact (402) 471-4515 to complete an application over the phone as usual.

Community Action is asking for support from the community to meet the basic needs of its participants at this time. Donations can be made at www.communityactionatwork.org or mailed to Community Action 210 O Street Lincoln, NE 68508.