There’s an old expression, “When one door closes, another one opens.”
This is how Earl Larkins, spokesperson for Park View Community Mission, talks about the challenges and triumphs the nonprofit has endured during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sometimes when we see obstacles, they’re actually opportunities,” he said.
In April, Park View, a nonprofit that provides free food, clothing and job training, saw its clientele change — lots of new faces but fewer regulars.
“That told us that we were missing some people that we had been serving before the pandemic and a lot of them felt they should stay home in self-isolation,” he said.
So Park View embarked on a campaign to tell people it still was open and had more food available.
Larkins said during the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has relaxed its income regulations so more families could receive USDA commodities.
“We were able to double the number of times people could come and pick food up, and we wanted to make sure people knew that,” he said. “But the issue remained the same for those people who didn’t want to come out, so we found some wonderful partners to come alongside us and help.”
Those partners included Meals on Wheels of Greater Lynchburg, Thomas Road en Español, Heritage Baptist Church and Central Virginia Alliance for Community Living.
“We love to make these little partnerships where we have something to bring to the table and they do too, so that’s how we work together to get things done,” Larkins said.
Close to 400 households in Lynchburg have been served with deliveries since April, which go out every Friday, he added.
Kris Shabestar, executive director for Meals on Wheels of Greater Lynchburg, said she has been pleased to work with Park View and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to provide supplemental food to mutual recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On our regular delivery routes, we have been able to occasionally include an extra box of food from Park View Mission,” she said. “They have also been a great help when we had an emergency situation with a recipient, they helped us meet the immediate need when our recipient was released from the hospital with little at home that she could eat. We were able to call Park View and pick up some food to get them started.”
Since March 1, Meals on Wheels has added 244 new recipients, Shabestar said.
She said it’s important that nonprofits work together to meet the needs of the community.
“No organization can do everything alone, it helps everyone and makes the community stronger when we are working together,” she said.
Jose Hernandez, an associate pastor at Thomas Road en Español, said COVID-19 provoked fear and panic about the uncertainties of the future.
Members of the Hispanic community were among those affected most during this pandemic, he said.
“As the economy halted, we realized a rising need for provisions amongst the people we shepherded and cared for,” he said.
Hernandez was already acquainted with Park View’s Food for Families initiative, having previously guided families and individuals toward its services.
“The pandemic made me quickly realize that their services would be a beneficial and practical means of providing assistance and relief to our families,” he said.
The church began with one to two families every two weeks and soon was delivering food boxes and supplies each week to Rustburg, Madison Heights and in between.
“What Park View Community Mission allowed us to do was increase our church’s presence and love within our church members and other families nearby,” Hernandez said. “Their mission far precedes this crisis, and it was their faithful hearts and diligent hands that positioned them to be remarkably used in our church and our community.”