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We check in with three local nonprofit organizations to see how they’re handling the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic financially and otherwise, and how they may have changed their operations in response to the pandemic. A 4-minute read.

With scores of people out of work and with limited income, charities around West Volusia that help those in vulnerable situations are themselves struggling to weather the COVID-19 storm.

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The coronavirus outbreak has been a double-whammy for nonprofits, with many seeing an increased demand for services at the same time as donations have dried up or revenue-generating thrift stores have been shuttered.

The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, for example, has seen a brisk demand for services like its food pantry, which has been converted into a drive-thru operation as a result of the pandemic.

“There is higher demand, as you can imagine. The good news is the city, the county and many of the folks that reside here are very supportive of us,” Susan Clark, executive director of The Neighborhood Center, said. “The question is how to sustain that in the next months where we’ll continue to see as a community the need increase for a variety of different reasons.”

In April, The Neighborhood Center saw 51 new donors. The Beacon has also reported on large donations of food made by The Elusive Grape and its owner, Bill Budzinski. Other Downtown eateries have also helped out, with The Table recently donating 15 vouchers, each good for a family meal for four.

“We’re just hopeful that the support will also be sustainable as we go through the next few months,” Clark said.

<img class="wp-image-3641 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/aaa838219da0907dc084ddf2d18cb38f-scaled.jpg" alt="BREAD FOR THE PLACE WITH A HEART — Volunteer Desi Williams helps unload bread and other baked goods donated by Mary Quinn of Melbourne, a friend of DeLandite Jacquelyn Lewis who learned from Lewis about the need and brought an SUV loaded with the food to The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia April 26. The baked goods were welcome at the DeLand facility, an agency scrambling to keep up with the challenges facing the community as shut-downs, quarantines and loss of income related to COVID-19 continue.” width=”696″ height=”928″ />

BREAD FOR THE PLACE WITH A HEART — Volunteer Desi Williams helps unload bread and other baked goods donated by Mary Quinn of Melbourne, a friend of DeLandite Jacquelyn Lewis who learned from Lewis about the need and brought an SUV loaded with the food to The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia April 26. The baked goods were welcome at the DeLand facility, an agency scrambling to keep up with the challenges facing the community as shut-downs, quarantines and loss of income related to COVID-19 continue.

Clark said she was grateful that she has been able to keep the center’s crew of 31 onboard and on the payroll, and that there have been no incidents of COVID-19 among the 70 or so people housed on The Neighborhood Center’s grounds.

“We’ve done a shelter-at-home home in the shelter,” Clark added.

Like many small businesses and charities, The Neighborhood Center has applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, a type of loan approved under the recent federal stimulus package that doesn’t have to be repaid if used on expenses like labor and rent.

Also like many businesses, The Neighborhood Center missed out on the first round of funding — which ran out quickly due to high demand — but Clark said the group is on track to get funding from the now-replenished program.

Building homes

<img class="wp-image-3642 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/651ca58687de228133b742170cd827f5.jpg" alt="TAKING A BREAK — West Volusia Habitat for Humanity volunteer Rory Litzinger takes a break from painting an in-progress home Saturday on Stone Street to enjoy a beverage. While painting the house, several volunteers took care to wear masks and gloves and to maintain a safe social distance from one another. Litzinger is the brother of the person who will ultimately own the home.” width=”696″ height=”932″ />

TAKING A BREAK — West Volusia Habitat for Humanity volunteer Rory Litzinger takes a break from painting an in-progress home Saturday on Stone Street to enjoy a beverage. While painting the house, several volunteers took care to wear masks and gloves and to maintain a safe social distance from one another. Litzinger is the brother of the person who will ultimately own the home.

At West Volusia Habitat for Humanity, the outbreak has meant pausing some operations, although volunteers are still working — socially distanced from one another, of course — to put the finishing touches on the nonprofit’s 100th home.

Much of Habitat’s income comes from its thrift store, the ReStore, on South Spring Garden Avenue in DeLand.

To keep its staff and customers safe, in mid-March, West Volusia Habitat opted to close the store. The downtime has allowed Habitat staff to reorganize the store and do some long-put-off maintenance tasks, according to Magda Hiller, the group’s executive director.

“We’re able to do things that we have not been able to do previously. Painting the doors in the ReStore, rearranging everything — that is huge,” Hiller said. “We just haven’t been able to do that. There’s just never enough time.”

West Volusia Habitat recently parted with two employees due to the crisis, leaving a staff of six, including Hiller.

There have been skeleton crews at build sites, Hiller said, with people remaining adequately distanced from one another. The organization is also in the process of getting a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

In the midst of the chaos, however, the group closed this month on a house recently built for a retired Stetson employee.

Now, the group is trying to figure out how — and when — to reopen the ReStore.

Caring for animals

At DeLand’s New Hope Animal Shelter, executive director Tray Black said his staff took early action to keep the shelter’s volunteers and staff safe.

“On March 12, when I heard of the first case in DeLand, we had an emergency meeting with [our board] and the decision was made to shut the shelter down for two weeks and not allow any volunteers on the grounds unless they were approved,” Black said. “… This was done for the safety of the staff and community, as 80 percent of our volunteers are over the age of 60.”

At the end of the two-week period, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide safer-at-home order, which shuttered many nonessential businesses through the end of April.

The shelter is still adopting out animals, but procedures have changed significantly, Black said.

“Potential adopters are now required to visit our website, view all the animals and fill out an adoption hold,” he said. “We will then call them and talk with them about the animal they are looking at and set up an appointment. We allow three appointments a day Monday through Friday. Everything is done outside, and staff and adopters are required to have [personal protective equipment].”

Fortunately, Black said, he hasn’t had to lay off staff. In fact, having the shelter’s grounds largely closed has given his staff an opportunity to tackle some much-needed projects.

“One of the biggest we have done at this point would be our cat room, as we now have an open cat room with no cages,” he said. “All the cats are allowed to run free with each other, and it gives the cats more of a homelike environment and will relieve a lot of their stress.”

Black called it “a cat-adoption room like no other in Volusia County,” and said he can’t wait until things get back to normal and the community can see it.

Still, not all has been great — donations have fallen about 50 percent, he said. Yet when the shelter has put out the call for help, the community has come through in a big way.

“A few weeks ago, we ran very low on dog food, and we put the word out, and the community came through, and our food room is now full,” Black said. “Home Depot in New Smyrna Beach donated us $3,000 worth of fencing and a new washer for our laundry room and have become one of our biggest supporters through the virus.”

Feeding neighbors

<img class="wp-image-3643 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/001076bba6aae98ec6636b45dfe89dbb-scaled.jpg" alt="SERVING TOGETHER — Dot Bradley and her husband, Pastor William Bradley, pause during their church’s latest food giveaway April 29. Both were quite busy helping those who had come to help them. The church has a regular food distribution on the third Wednesday of each month.” width=”696″ height=”464″ />

SERVING TOGETHER — Dot Bradley and her husband, Pastor William Bradley, pause during their church’s latest food giveaway April 29. Both were quite busy helping those who had come to help them. The church has a regular food distribution on the third Wednesday of each month.

Not to be confused with the DeLand animal shelter, New Hope Baptist Church in Deltona is seeing brisk demand for its services, as well.

The church does food distributions on the third Wednesday of each month, in which the Rev. William Bradley said more than 200 people are usually fed.

“We’re getting even more donations,” he said. “We’re helping people with housing, and we’re helping with utilities.”

He said food is proving the greatest need in his community.

“People have no income,” he said.

<img class="wp-image-3644 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/f1b538dfeba4ecc9fda179a6bef6c744-scaled.jpg" alt="A COORDINATED EFFORT WITH HOURS OF PREPARATION — More than 40 members of New Hope Baptist Church and nonmember volunteers join the effort to organize, arrange, pack and load allotments of fresh and nonperishable food for those in need. New Hope Human Services is an outreach ministry of New Hope Baptist Church.” width=”696″ height=”464″ />

A COORDINATED EFFORT WITH HOURS OF PREPARATION — More than 40 members of New Hope Baptist Church and nonmember volunteers join the effort to organize, arrange, pack and load allotments of fresh and nonperishable food for those in need. New Hope Human Services is an outreach ministry of New Hope Baptist Church.

— Editor’s note: Full disclosure — Beacon editor Anthony DeFeo is also vice president and treasurer of West Volusia Habitat for Humanity.

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