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Community Action Center, Sandy's Helping Hands, offer aid for families in need

COURTESY PHOTO: SANDY COMMUNITY ACTION CENTER - The Action Center is still providing food boxes while the thrift store, pantry and donation dock are closed. Even without a public health crisis unfolding, there are several nonprofit organizations and volunteers who work every day to help those in need in the Sandy area.

In light of the current restrictions and economic impact caused by of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, both the Sandy Community Action Center and Sandy's Helping Hands are still doing all they can to serve the community as safely as possible.

The Action Center thrift store and walk-in pantry are both closed, but volunteers and staff continue to offer food boxes in a drive-thru format at 38982 Pioneer Blvd.

The donation dock where the center regularly takes food donations is also closed because of concern for the "health of (the center's) volunteers and (to) limit items going through their hands," according to a post on the center's Facebook page.

"The majority of our revenue comes from the thrift store," Executive Directoe Kirsten Pitzer explained. "Closing is not ideal, but it's what has to happen. I'm trying to focus on food distribution right now, but I probably will have to think about revenue streams eventually."

The Action Center is at capacity for volunteers, but folks can contribute to the cause by donating money online at sandyactioncenter.com.

"I really appreciate it," Pitzer said.

The center is open limited hours and the food box days are on an ever-changing schedule until the center staff can nail down the best time.

Until then, people in need of services should follow the center's Facebook page for updates at www.facebook.com/sandyactioncenter.

Different from how the center traditionally operates, all in the Sandy area — even outside of the Oregon Trail School District — are welcome to come receive a box.

On Wednesday, March 18, the center handed out 72 pre-packaged boxes. The average demand in normal times is about 50 boxes.

"At least one third of the people who came (Wednesday) had never been here before," Pitzer said. "I think this is an important service because I think a lot of our clientele do not have the means to stock up. I've heard multiple stories over the past few days of people who are losing their jobs."

Those who visit the center on food box distribution days are advised to remain in their cars and follow the instructions of volunteers.

The center is currently operating on a limited crew for increased safety.

"We would love to have more interest in volunteering and donating when this is all said and down," Pitzer said.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Sandys Helping Hands need more volunteers to help provide aid.Frontline philanthropy

Currently recruiting volunteers is Sandy's Helping Hands. The group, which has been helping families in the Sandy area with everything from energy assistance to food donations for more than five years, is working diligently to keep a finger on the pulse of the need in the community.

"In a time like this, we're going to do whatever is needed to help our community," founder Machel Heldstab explained. "Right now our main goal is opening up our volunteer applications."

Sandy's Helping Hands has always been considered a virtual nonprofit since Heldstab does not operate a brick-and-mortar office, which she finds beneficial, especially in a time like this.

"I think it gives us an advantage," Heldstab said. "We're used to working via social media. We're kind of the frontline to help quickly and we try to take pressure off of other local resources since they can't be open 24/7. I feel like we're all in this together. There are a lot of neighbors out there ready to help other neighbors."

Heldstab assured that all volunteers are following standard protocol from the CDC and utilizing gloves and masks, disinfecting items and leaving supplies on people's doorsteps when delivering to minimize human-to-human contact.

Aside from taking on as many individual cases of need as possible, Heldstab and her board are also working to create a network of care with local stores and the Sandy Area Metro public transportation officials to get food out to seniors and struggling families. That program is still in the works, but volunteers will be needed to help distribute.

"We'll change and adapt as the virus adapts and things change within the city," Heldstab explained.

Funds to help purchase supplies for those in need are still welcomed and appreciated and can be donated online at sandyshelpinghands.com. Make sure to specify that the funds are for the emergency assist program when donating.


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