Beverly Bootstraps is closed through Tuesday, March 17, to allow for a deep cleaning of its building after a staff member reported having a household member who is self-quarantining as a precautionary measure.
Over the next few days, the agency said it will also reassess how it does business with its clients as COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, continues to escalate.
"We're making all these plans with the assumption everyone's going to stay well," said Sue Gabriel, Beverly Bootstraps' executive director. "Anything could drop at any minute. It's really... I have to say, this past week has been one of the most challenging weeks in the 12 years I've been the executive director."
They aren't alone. Citizens Inn in Peabody, which runs the Haven from Hunger pantry and meals program, and The Open Door in Gloucester and Ipswich, have all taken measures to change how they do business and serve the most vulnerable populations on the North Shore and Cape Ann.
At The Open Door, meals are handed over fully prepared and packaged, said president and CEO Julie LaFontaine. Nothing is eaten on-site now in order to maximize social distance between clients. And with the pantry, only four people are allowed to enter at once, and a large room has been set up to help waiting guests with social distancing.
"We've kept the timeline of different things we've done, and things that seemed important three days ago are moot points," LaFontaine said. "We've stopped having salad bars in our meal program, and now we're packaging up fully-packaged meals for distribution."
That's also the case at Citizens Inn.
"The shift is now that everything will be pre-bagged for clients," said development officer Gianna Langis. "Dinner service will change in the sense that it'll be takeaway meals, so they won't be congregating in the dining room to eat dinner."
The organizations also all report a need for cash. In fact, some make the case for cash having more weight than cans of corn and soup.
"We'd certainly welcome food donations — peanut butter, tuna fish, cereal, juice are on the top of that list," LaFontaine said. "We'd also like to remind people that in a time like this, the same money they'd spend buying those items at retail in a store could be leveraged with wholesale buying with a greater return, so cash is always welcome."
Further, organizations that "rescue" food — for instance, taking a pallet of lettuce that a business or restaurant has to offload before it expires — are falling short of supplies as consumers stockpile their food, Langis said.
"We aren't able to rescue as much food as we normally do, because there isn't much to rescue," she said. "Because we don't have that extra stream of food, we're going to have to start paying for what we need, and the cost of extra bags, the cost of extra gloves."
HOW TO DONATE
Beverly Bootstraps: Food donations can be placed in collection boxes at Stop & Shop, 224 Elliott St., Beverly; Stop & Shop, 37 Enon St., Beverly; and Shaw’s, 71 Dodge St., Beverly; or dropped off at the office, 35 Park St., during designated hours. More information and how to make financial donations is available at www.beverlybootstraps.org/donate.
Citizens Inn: Information on how to donate can be found at https://www.citizensinn.org/give-to-citizens-inn/
The Open Door: Food donations can be dropped off at the food pantry, 28 Emerson Ave., Gloucester, during regular business hours. For more information and how to make a financial donation, visit www.foodpantry.org.