Charities step up during crisis

Published 3:06 pm Monday, March 16, 2020

As the number of COVID-19 cases grow in Alabama, businesses and nonprofits are faced with the tough decision of heeding recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to shutdown operations or cut hours and limit workers and customers or to keep their doors open in an effort to weather the storm.

The Edmundite Missions is taking steps both to limit the number of people coming to their facilities and provide assistance to those in need.

“The Missions will never abandon our neighbors in need,” Edmundite Missions President and CEO Chad McEachern said in a press release. “Our prayers remain for those sickened with COVID-19 and all those in need.”

The Missions has canceled all educational programs, including its New Possibilities Youth Program and The Academy, as well as all senior activity programs.

Additionally, the organization has delayed the grand opening of its new Dr. Michael and Catherine Bullock Community Center until April and has curtailed staff travel beyond the Black Belt.

At the same times, the Missions is stepping up to provide meals, both for children now out of school for several weeks and for seniors trying to practice social distancing.

All nutrition programs are slated to remain operational, though a keen focus will be given to sanitation, and the Missions will offer “grab and go” lunches and dinners for those at high risk of contracting the disease, as well as “grab and go” breakfasts for children.

According to Selma Area Food Bank (SAFB) Executive Director Jeff Harrison, the local food bank’s future is uncertain in light of the outbreak – Harrison is slated to meet with representatives from the SAFB’s parent organization, the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB), to chart a course over the next couple of weeks.

However, Harrison said he has already noticed an uptick in the amount of food being picked up by agencies looking to stockpile food for the people they serve.

Dallas County Family Resource Center (DCFRC) Executive Director James Thomas said that his organization will move to remote work, but still hold scheduled meetings for the rest of the week.

“We take our work very seriously and we will continue to be a resource for the community,” Thomas said. “The hysteria surrounding the coronavirus is much more of an issue than the virus itself. The most important thing for people to understand is that the virus, for healthy people, is no worse than the flu Everyone needs to limit exposure to others as much as possible and only leave home for essential reasons.”

A press release from the Alabama Cable and Broadband Association (ACBA) stated that Alabama cable providers are rolling out no-cost and low-cost options for high-speed internet for those hit hardest by the virus and its economic side effects.

“Alabama’s cable providers are also coordinating with our local governmental and nonprofit organizations across the state to make sure we have the highest awareness of these broadband options among those most affected by COVID-19 preparations,” said ACBA Executive Director Michelle Roth. “Please check with your local cable provider if you are unclear on options for student and low-income access during this time in Alabama.”

Providers participating in the low-cost or no-cost options include Charter Spectrum, Comcast (Xfinity) and CTV Beam.

Selma Housing Authority (SHA) Executive Director Kennard Randolph has been updating residents and employees on best practices during the outbreak.

“It is imperative that we take every precaution in an effort to protect ourselves and our families and friends from contracting this deadly disease,” Randolph said. “If you call in a work order, be sure to let the office know if you or a member of your household are sick or not. This puts the Housing Authority employees on alert before they go in to make repairs.”

Bob Frazer of The Frazer Group is also making preparations to tackle day-to-day work requirements.

“With our phone system, SELCOM is helping us make plans to have each member of our team able to work from home with our normal business phones and normal hours if needed,” Frazer said. “We are also able to access of of our other systems remotely as well.”

Elsewhere in the city, events are being canceled and businesses are closing down.

The Selma-Dallas County Public Library will be closed until Monday, April 6, but is developing a book delivery program for children locked out of school and looking to reschedule any events that might be affected.

The Old Depot Museum’s Low Country Boil has been moved to April 30 and the annual Selma Pilgrimage has been tentatively moved to April 24 and 25.

Likewise, the YMCA of Selma-Dallas County has canceled or postponed all youth and teen programs and special events, including the upcoming Father/Daughter Dance, the Easter Egg-stravaganza, BINGO and more.

The Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce has also canceled its upcoming annual meeting, slated for Thursday, March 19, and will reimburse anyone who has already paid to attend.

Selma Times-Journal News Editor James Jones contributed to this report.