The Helpers, The Doers and the Pot Throwers & Decorators

It’s 2020, so we don’t have to explain why the Loudoun Empty Bowls event was completely different this year. Instead of a celebratory end of summer night out at the lovely Stone Tower Winery with friends and family, we had a two night drive through bowl pick up.

There were hundreds of air hugs, and lots of quick catching up among people who haven’t seen one another in a long six months.  Puffy clouds floated through a sky dimmed by smoke from far away fires, making for a spectacular sunset tinged with all the worry, grief, and angst of 2020. People were glad to come to the mountain to give help to those in need, and gather up a bit of hope for themselves.

Beauty in the midst of this very difficult year is very welcome. Here are a few photos of the loveliness that is Loudoun Empty Bowls. Let’s hope for a return to gathering and shared community next year. In the meantime, we’re grateful for the helpers, the doers, the pot throwers and decorators who contribute to Loudoun Empty Bowls and the effort to feed those in need.

Just for fun – TP in the Time of Pandemic

A Variety of sizes of rolls of TPSince the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen lots of different brands of community generosity. One of the ways people have been generous is toilet paper donations.
From the beginning, when TP was not to be had, we’ve gotten donations of it here and there. We’ve held them for our most vulnerable populations–our elderly and disabled shut ins.

Now that the TP is rolling again, we’re seeing donations of all sizes. This is what was on our shelves yesterday. Who knew TP was made in such variety!

A marathon AND a sprint….

Loudoun Hunger Relief is moving forward to meet the growing need. Every day brings a new challenge. The need for services is growing just at the time that we can’t allow volunteers in the building. We know this is a marathon, but we’re also having to accelerate at a sprinter’s pace to meet the demand for services.

Market Room use during COVID-19 crisis

Market Room before COVID-19 crisis

Market Room use during COVID-19 crisisWe planned for this crisis, and our emergency planning has served us well.  We’ve kept pace so far, and we’re working to make sure we can keep it up in the weeks (hopefully not months!) to come.

Our service numbers are up 50% in just three weeks. So many seeking services are newly unemployed–it’s truly heartbreaking. We expect that our service numbers will be up again this week. Each “number” is a family with a job loss or reduction in hours to cope with. We hurt for each of them and for our community.

On the bright side, we live in an incredibly generous place and donors have been helping us keep this ship moving forward. So many have supplied food and monetary donations, as well as sent lovely encouraging notes via email, snail mail or social media.

We thank everyone for the support, and the positive messages! Keep it coming!

 

It’s a lot….

In the last two weeks, nearly 1000 donors have provided money, food, or other material assistance to us as we geared up our operations for the need we know is to come. It’s a lot.

Today, our phones were ringing way more than usual for a Thursday morning, as many people in our area are facing their first week with no paycheck. People are worried about how they will take care of their families. It’s a lot to think and worry about.

We are humbled by the outpouring of support. We are equally humbled by the grace of those we serve. It’s a lot to take in.

The pace of change, the underlying anxiety, the generosity, the strength of spirit; it’s all a lot. We are grateful to live in such an amazing community, and grateful for the support we’re receiving. And it’s a lot!

Today’s Normal

It’s Tuesday at LHR and we’re living “today’s normal” every day. We are profoundly grateful to so many people who are helping us with food or financial donations. One donor let us know he is contributing $50 a day to LHR for every day he is forced to work from home. Many have phoned us to see what we need, and many others have sent generously from our Amazon wish list.

A typical Tuesday has appointment based service hours in the morning and again in the evening. On a typical Tuesday, we serve about 50 families total. Today, we served 75. This was not a typical Tuesday.<–!more–>

We are proud that our staff of eight people, along with help from the Loudoun County Department of Parks and Recreation personnel, has managed to keep up with the demand for emergency food. We are adhering to CDC guidelines to have no more than 10 people in any one place, and to have them at least three feet apart. This slows down our operations, but the safety of everyone is the first concern.

There is much to do to keep up with demand, and we are doing it while adding all the extra steps it takes to sanitize, keep the shelves stocked, and pack emergency orders.

We have shifted our service completely to the outdoors, and we give thanks daily for the good weather we’ve had. We have also shifted completely to pre-packed bags. This speeds service, and provides very a very similar selection of groceries to every family. Traditionally, we have packed groceries to order, honoring special requests where possible. In today’s normal, we don’t have the variety of food we normally would, and we’re doing our best to help everyone get through this crisis.

We adjust things every day to be faster, better, more efficient and more caring. When we make mistakes, and we do, we apologize, fix them and move onward.

We feel ready for tomorrow, in “today’s normal”.

Getting through today, preparing for tomorrow

It’s been a busy Monday at Loudoun Hunger Relief. We spent Sunday reviewing CDC social distancing guidelines, and we knew that the pantry is just too small to provide enough space for everyone to be inside safely. We made the hard choice to suspend our volunteer program, and we began to bring groceries to our families in need outside. We are doing our best to provide what people need while minimizing risk to everyone.

We had help from so many today! 7×24 Exchange, an association of data center service providing companies, arrived in the chill of the morning and packed 400 bags of emergency groceries in 2 hours. County employees from the Department of Parks and Recreation as well as from the Department of Family Services and the Voter Registration Office came to help pack another 600+ bags. It was an amazing, open air, socially distant, community supporting operation!  JK Moving came to the rescue, loaning us a truck and driver for a food pick up we didn’t have the staffing to make. Wegmans helped with heavily discounted cereal for our bag packs.

Today we provided food services to families in need at both our Leesburg pantry and our Sterling Mobile Market service location.

We provided bags of shelf-stable groceries for emergency preparedness to local first responders. We had bags ready early in the day for the Department of Parks and Recreation to provide to the seniors usually served in their centers. Bags got delivered to William Watters House in Sterling and arrived at Madison House in Leesburg (senior low-income housing). Tomorrow morning, Loudoun County Public Schools will pick up emergency family grocery bags to travel with them on the buses delivering breakfast and lunch to children and families throughout the LCPS system.

All in all today, our teams packed over 1000 bags and delivered or shared with other agencies nearly 700 bags. We’ll be at it again tomorrow morning, when we open for service at 8:30.

This is a challenging time for everyone. We are blessed to have the resources of our community and local government partners backing us as we strive to help low-income families and older adults get through today and prepare for tomorrow.

2020 Foresight! Microsoft in action at Loudoun Hunger Relief, #Neighbors@LHR

What a start to 2020! The play on words is a little tired by mid-January, but we’ll go with it anyway.  A corporation with a vision for thriving communities has embraced Loudoun Hunger Relief’s vision for a community in which everyone has access to adequate, nutritious food. We see only good things to come. Continue reading “2020 Foresight! Microsoft in action at Loudoun Hunger Relief, #Neighbors@LHR”