For volunteers and patrons at St. Vincent de Paul in Prineville, it was a busy first week of COVID-19 operation at the local Food Pantry.
"Food distribution moved outside to the parking lot just north of the pantry," said Charlie Kurta, president of Prineville SVDP. "Guests were directed to stay in their cars and enter the pantry queue off Northeast Loper Avenue."
Kurtz noted that at opening of business Thursday, cars were backed up on Northeast Loper Avenue waiting in line.
"For the week, 103 families received food boxes, which is close to our all-time weekly high," Kurtz said.
Volunteers started packing food boxes at 10 a.m. and loading them onto the pantry truck. By 12:30, the truck, fully loaded with 30-35 boxes of food, was moved into the parking lot. Large carts with apples, oranges, milk and coolers of frozen meat were stationed on north side of the truck in the shade. About 10 more food boxes were prepared during the afternoon to keep up with demand.
Guests were offered a choice of two meats, plus milk, fruit, and a food box of nonperishables sized to their family.
"Their cars were loaded in one to two minutes," said Kurtz. He noted that he felt like part of a pit crew at the racetrack, having watched "Ford vs. Ferrari."
"Gov. Kate Brown's office considers the network and its partners and programs essential locations," said Alicia Atalla-Mei, statewide network manager of the Oregon Food Bank. "Our operations, and that of our food distribution partners and meal sites, are exempt from both the restriction on gatherings of over 25 and orders that are restricting restaurants."
Kurtz said St. Vincent de Paul is in need of more volunteers and more shifts to alleviate the workload.
"Many volunteers who started packing food boxes at 10 a.m. stayed to distribute food in the afternoon," he said. "We need two shifts of volunteers: morning and afternoon."
He added that the nonprofit also needs younger backs to lift and place food boxes in guest's car seats.
In addition, food can be distributed in two hours. Opening hours will be shortened to 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
"This was week one of what may be week 26 or 52. We don't know, but we need to plan for the long haul," Kurtz concluded.
Hours of operation at SVDP:
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday: 1 PM to 3 PM
The Friends of St. Vincent de Paul Celebration was canceled last week because of COVID-19.
St. Vincent de Paul spent more than it took in December through February due to increased demand for emergency services. Operating the pantry and emergency services costs $5,000 per month. Monthly donations can be made by visiting svdpofcc.org, and clicking the Donate Now button or mailing a check to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Crook County, PO Box 545, Prineville.
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