The winter season can prove to be a challenging time for those in need. The financial struggles of obtaining warm clothes, shelter, food and gifts for others are already a stretch on their own. Adding to this annual challenge is the rising COVID-19 cases across the country and state, driving people indoors and threatening their health and social gatherings.
But despite this, nonprofits in Johnson County have still been able to maintain their services to aid those in need.
The Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County, a nonprofit volunteer food pantry, modified their services to continue to provide for patrons in need. Formerly taking a “shopping approach,” in which volunteers provide shopping carts to patrons as they go through aisles of food, everything is now done via drive thru.
“Cars queue up at our parking lot, we give them a menu of food items, and we also have some standard pre-boxed items that we give to everybody,” said Carol Phipps, executive director.
The volunteers wear masks, social distance and wash their hands and sanitize constantly, she said. Families also have to wear masks when going through the drive thru to get their food.
The food pantry expanded its reach to other counties in Indiana, even offering a delivery service for those at home.
"Before the pandemic, they were supposed to live in Johnson County, now we don't care. If they're hungry, we'll get them their food, no questions asked," Phipps said.
On average, Phipps said the pantry sees 110 households per day, with the average household having four people.
“We find it’s very rewarding. Our volunteers have repeatedly said they’re making a difference in this difficult time and the families are so appreciative,” Phipps said. “We see the giving side of the community.”
The Interchurch Food Pantry, located at 211 Commerce Drive, is open Monday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m. and can be contacted at jcpantry.org.
In terms of mental health, businesses such as Upstream Prevention continue their mission to address substance abuse and suicide prevention. Founded in 2015, Upstream hasn’t faced many major changes in their operations.
Founder and executive director Kathleen Ratcliff had already offered remote options for meetings to address accessibility and equity for members.
"If we're all getting better at using online programs, there's no reason not to offer it either as a hybrid or for individuals who can't gather," Ratcliff said. She added that even when the number of cases goes down and virtual interactions are no longer a necessity, these options will continue with some modifications.
Upstream Prevention is located in Greenwood, Indiana at 3209 W. Smith Valley Road. They can also be found on Facebook and @upstreamprev on Twitter, as well as Eventbrite, where coalition meetings are announced.
Coffeehouse Five, at 41 W. Monroe St., calls itself a “for-benefit” coffeeshop, “exist[ing] for the benefit of [their] community.”
They offer free marriage and addiction counseling, as well as setting aside part of their revenue for a growing mental health fund. Co-founder Brian Peters offers this service due to its impact on improving the strength and vitality of communities.
While counseling no longer offered in person, he is thankful for the existence and convenience of Zoom meetings.
“We’ve been at this for about 10 years,” Peters said. “At least 75-80% of individuals and couples who use our services find us as a result of utilizing the coffeehouse.”
In the past, Coffeehouse Five donated 10% of all sales revenue to other local nonprofits. Now they have established fund for further treatment in order to benefit their counseling services. This fund exists to pay for mental health services that their free counseling cannot provide.
While indoor seating is still available at a limited rate, the business has expanded to supply other ways of serving the community, with the addition of online ordering and offering curbside delivery.
“This situation with COVID has forced all kinds of industries to move forward with things they’ve wanted to do but have never gotten around to,” Peters said. “This has forced us to get it set up, and I’m sure we’ll continue as the need arises.”