ELLSWORTH — It has been a tumultuous week across Hancock County, as residents have been rapidly adapting to the precautions now in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the face of school closures, working from home and no toilet paper to be found at the grocery store, there are people and services working to ensure that those in need are still taken care of.
That includes food pantries, restaurants offering meals to children, or just people offering to pick up groceries for the elderly.
Friends in Action, which provides rides, exercise classes and other activities to seniors, is continuing to offer rides for critical medical appointments such as dialysis or cancer treatments, or make pick-ups from grocery stores and pharmacies for those whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health officials are advising to remain at home.
“We’ve got a number of community members who have stepped forward,” said Friends in Action Executive Director Jo Cooper. “We’re still going to do our transportation program on a more limited basis and we’re providing the drivers with masks. We also have volunteers who are happy to help with picking up groceries or going to pharmacies,”
Cooper said Friends in Action also will continue to work with the state and other organizations to remain abreast of how people will be able to access supplies and resources.
With the CDC recommending that people over 60 remain at home and avoid large crowds, Cooper said Friends in Action also plans to continue reaching out to those who may begin to feel isolated.
“We’re going to really work on our telephone program and make sure we’re checking in on them,” said Cooper. “And with our fitness program, which is so important to people, we’re also going to post ways for people to remain active in their homes.”
With the pandemic causing economic woes around the world, there may be some concern over how small nonprofits will be able to sustain themselves, but as Cooper said, “We do rely on donations, so it is worrying. But we also have an opportunity to help people, and because we’re smaller and locally focused, we’ll still be able to help the whole area.”
At Community Closet in Ellsworth, the staff has continued to collect food and supplies to be distributed.
“We’ve been meeting people outside so that there aren’t customers inside the store and we can limit contact,” said Director Jackie Wycoff, noting that people had been stopping by to donate items, which are all sanitized before being given out, including one gentleman who dropped off a large supply of toilet paper. “We’ve had people stop in for formula, baby food, diapers. We’re just trying to help offset the struggle in any way.”
Wycoff noted that with kids staying at home for the foreseeable future, Community Closet also was maintaining plenty of school supplies for parents to pick up. And for kids who may be at home while a parent is still working outside the house, simple, easy-to-prepare meals would also be welcomed.
“We don’t want anyone to go without, so we’re just trying to stay on top of everything,” Wycoff said. “People are welcome to call if they’re struggling or have questions. I don’t mind doing to research.”
Elsewhere, the Loaves and Fishes food pantry in Ellsworth is remaining open, implementing new, drive-up procedures for picking up items this week. Residents will be able to fill out order forms over the telephone or outside the pantry, and then pick up their carts in the parking lot.
Restaurants and small grocery stores, such as Provender in Ellsworth and Dunbar’s in Sullivan, have been advertising free lunches for school-age children. Regional School Unit 24 is also providing breakfast and lunch. And on Facebook, people from around the area have begun volunteering their services running errands, going to pharmacies or picking up groceries for elderly neighbors.
Currently, food banks, grocery stores and pharmacies are expected to remain open.