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Compassion During a Crisis

Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes Staff

If 2020 could be summed up in a word that was appropriate for this blog, we would pick “adaptation.” People from all over the world have had to find new ways of living their lives while staying mindful of the threats that COVID-19 presents. A local example of successful adaptation can be seen in the way that Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes (KLF) has responded to the needs of its client base.

“Before everything shut down, we had 19 staff members and upwards of 400 volunteers a week,” Resource Development Director Greta Faworski shared. “We reduced our staff to eight members during quarantine and are slowly bringing back the rest of our workforce. We have always relied on volunteer-based staffing but are trying to operate with as few workers as possible to protect the system and volunteers.”

In addition to limiting the number of individuals in the building, KLF’s service model had to be tweaked as well. Having previously operated out of 30 pantries throughout Kalamazoo, the organization was forced to shift all of its operations to its main pantry on Portage Street, Monday through Friday each week.

“Normally, people are able to make their own food selections in-person, but we had to go to a curb-side pre-packed model where we offer nutritionally balanced grocery,” Faworski explained. “Another thing we do is accommodate for the number of people in each household as well as any food allergies.”

KLF has continued with its call-ahead scheduling but still accepts walk-up appointments for those without access to a phone. Additionally, staff members have been working with local case workers to address the food needs of families being served. Perhaps the most substantial adaptation that has resulted from COVID-19 is the organization’s home delivery program. KLF now delivers food packs to those with compromised immune systems who cannot leave their homes or do not have reliable transportation.

“Home delivery has shown us that there is a contingent of citizens that we would have never been able to serve otherwise,” Faworski explained. “The pandemic has helped us evaluate our operations and find new ways to provide assistance. Home delivery is something we will look to continue after the pandemic is over. No one will ever be the same after this, but you hope that you can take the best lessons and move on.”

So far, the response to these measures has been one of appreciation.

“We saw a lot of new families, especially when everything was shut down and people were waiting to hear back on unemployment checks,” Faworski said. “Usually, we are met with a sense of relief or gratitude that basic needs are being met.”

Faworski wants it to be known how much she and the rest of the KLF family appreciates the dedication that has been displayed by the community.

“One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how the community steps up in a time of crisis,” she said. “We are just so grateful for all of our partners, other nonprofit organizations, and members of our network that are assisting Kalamazoo.”

We really admire the compassion that you and your team demonstrate, Greta! Unsure of how you can support KLF? The organization is still accepting volunteer applications during this time and donations to the organization’s wish list are also greatly encouraged.

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