Area residents step up in times of crisis
Story by Madeleine Leroux
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” — FRED ROGERS
Helias Catholic High School junior Will Grothoff works at a bread drive last month.
I’m a Mr. Rogers kid. I was raised on his messages and lessons, and the one about the helpers always stood out to me.
It’s familiar to most of us, as it always seems to pop up on social media in times of crisis. If you’re anything like me, you find hope in those words — mainly because there are so many real-life examples in our own community.
With the coronavirus pandemic halting so much of daily life around the globe this spring, it has been easy to see so many people stepping in to fill the role of helper.
Some worked on what was essentially the front lines — nurses, doctors and other health care professionals, as well as many retail and grocery store employees, who put their health on the line, not to mention that of their loved ones, to keep the essentials available.
Some spread positive messages however they could, from an inspirational note in chalk on a neighborhood sidewalk to hopeful images on store windows.
And some looked for opportunities to voluntarily serve those in need in Mid-Missouri, from keeping food pantries up and running to assisting with deliveries of much needed medication, food and more.
Rosemary Heidbreder is one such volunteer.
The 66-year-old has been giving her time to the Samaritan Center since fall 2009, just a few months after she retired. Heidbreder said her parents
Helias Catholic High School seniors Daniel Dusenberg, left, and Jonathan Dolan talk during a mobile food pantry in March in the parking lot of St. Martin Catholic School.
volunteered and it was always something she thought of doing. By late March, with the spread of coronavirus, the Samaritan Center saw fewer volunteers, as many are older and retired, Heidbreder said. The elderly and people with underlying conditions are at the highest risk of death from coronavirus or COVID-19.
“We have been short-handed,” she said.
That makes it all the more important for Heidbreder to show up, she said. The Samaritan Center made modifications to how it provides food, setting up a noncontact drive-thru for people to pick up pantry items three days a week. Heidbreder said the modified system is working well for her and other volunteers and, she thinks, for the people they serve. Volunteers like Heidbreder work to put boxes together of all the pantry items a person will receive. Another person then takes the box to the drive-thru. Heidbreder said she feels safe with the modified setup.
“I think it’s easier,” she said. “People are understanding.”
Heidbreder said she enjoys volunteering and though she acknowledged it was risky during the pandemic, she is hoping for the best.
“It is a little scary,” Heidbreder said. “I’m healthy. Hopefully, I won’t get it.”
The experience serving her community is rewarding, she said, especially since she knows so many rely on the Samaritan Center’s pantry.
Jonathan Dolan grips a can of crushed tomatoes at the mobile food pantry on March 25 in the parking lot of St. Martin Catholic School.
“I feel like there’s people out there that need it,” Heidbreder said. “I enjoy it and I look forward to going.”
So does Becky Schneider, who started volunteering at the Samaritan Center shortly after she retired from the state. She said she had become familiar with the facility when she would help her son’s Boy Scout troop with food drives.
It started simply as something to do in her spare time, she said, but it’s become something she really enjoys. Though it’s always been an important job, it’s even more important now, Schneider said.
“A lot of people at the center are older, retired and need to keep themselves protected,” Schneider said. “I’m able to and I enjoy it.”
Like Heidbreder, Schneider said it’s a safe environment at the center and they work to keep all items safe as well.
Schneider said everyone can lend a hand in one way or another, even if it’s nothing more than checking on a neighbor or an older relative who lives alone. Simply hearing someone’s voice can help fight feelings of isolation, she said.
“Just make them feel better,” Schneider said.
Working together and helping each other, we’ll all make it through. Just remember to take care of yourself as well, and take all necessary precautions.
“Everybody just needs to be really careful,” Schneider said.
SOME WAYS TO HELP OUT
The abundance of understanding and caring is easily the silver lining in this crisis. In Mid-Missouri, there are plenty of people willing to help. Look at those making masks for health care workers and those in elder care.
RESOURCES DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
At the time of printing, the coronvirus pandemic continued to close much of day-to-day business in Mid-Missouri. Here is a list of resources available during this global pandemic.
- Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri has an online form to request financial or volunteer assistance at cccnmo.diojeffcity.org/covid-19-coronavirus-relief-request/. People can also request assistance by calling 573-635-7719.
- The Salvation Army of Jefferson City offers rent and utility assistance. To find out if you qualify, call 573-635-1975 and follow the prompts to reach social services.
- Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org, a service of the Missouri Bar and American Bar Association, offers free legal help for people whose income has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis or who qualify as a low-income household.
- Unemployment insurance is available to those who lost their job due to no fault of their own, including those laid off due to a slowdown in business caused by COVID-19. Visit Missouri’s online unemployment system at uinteract.labor.mo.gov/benefits/home.do.
- The United Way of Central Missouri is administering the Central Missouri Food Service Industry Relief Fund, intended to offer financial aid to members of the on-premise food service industries. To apply for aid, visit unitedwaycemo.org/covid-19 or email email@example.com.
- Central Missouri Community Action has extended its Energy Assistance Program to include anyone who has recently lost their job or been furloughed due to the COVID-19 crisis. The assistance is available to people in Cole, Boone, Callaway, Moniteau and Osage counties. Applications for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program are available at cmca.us/get-help/energy-assistance/.
Food & Basic Needs
- The Missouri Department of Social Services’ Missouri Services Navigator at mo.servicesnavigator.org lists more than 2,000 services including food pantries, school meal programs for students, diaper banks, child care, counseling, financial services, employment and mental health services for the disabled, and educational services and job training.
- The United Way of Central Missouri has established a Cole County COVID-19 Assistance Helpline to assist residents with grocery/food pantry deliveries, pharmaceutical deliveries and other direct services during the pandemic. To request services, dial 573-634-6999 between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri is continuing its Cole County Mobile Food Pantry using a drive-thru to maintain social distancing. Regular pantry locations are the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, 1105 Lafayette St., from 4-6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month; Capital West Christian Church, 1315 Fairgrounds Road, from 9-11 a.m. the third Saturday of each month; Jefferson City YMCA Firley location, 525 Ellis Blvd., from 3:30-5:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month; Helias Catholic High School’s Crusader Athletic Complex, corner of Myrtle Avenue and Swifts Highway, from 10 a.m.-noon the first Saturday of each month; St. Martin Catholic Church, 7148 St. Martins Ave. in St. Martins, from 4-6 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month; and St. Michael Catholic Church, 13321 Route C in Russellville, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month.
- Aging Best is providing curbside pickup and home-delivered meals for seniors in Cole County and 18 other counties. Curbside meals are currently available from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at Jefferson City’s Clarke Senior Center at 1310 Linden Drive and West Point Senior Center at 2701 W. Main St. Starting April 13, meals will be available only at the Clarke Senior Center. Those who wish to pick up a meal should call the center at 573-634-8020 before 10 a.m. Those needing assistance with meals, access to food or transportation, or caregiver support should call Aging Best at 1-800-369-5211.
- The Jefferson City School District is offering free drive-thru or curbside pickup meals for children from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Pickup locations include Lewis and Clark Middle School; Thomas Jefferson Middle School; and East, North, South, West, Pioneer Trail and Thorpe Gordon elementary schools. The school district with First Student and the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson Cityis offering an additional breakfast, lunch and dinner option to students at bus stops. Visit jcschools.us for menus and routes.
- The Salvation Army of Jefferson City, 927 Jefferson St., is continuing lunch and dinner services by offering grab-and-go meals. Its food pantry is open by appointment only, made by calling 573-635-1975 ext. 7.
- Samaritan Center, 1310 E. McCarty St., is offering a drive-thru, non-contact pantry. Pantry hours are 9-11 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 2-5 p.m. Thursday.
- The Pantry JC distributes food from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. the fourth Saturday of each month. During the COVID-19 outbreak it is providing additional distributions by appointment only; appointments can be made between 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and between 4:30-6:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays by contacting The Pantry JC via Facebook Messenger or using the contact form at thepantryjc.org.
- Building Community Bridges, 213 E. Ashley St., provides a pantry from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. the first and third Thursday of each month.
- First Christian Church, 327 E. Capitol Ave., provides a pantry from noon-4 p.m. every Tuesday.
- First Presbyterian Church, 324 Madison St., provides a pantry from 1-3 p.m. every Tuesday; bring a photo ID. The church also offers meals-to-go at 5 p.m. Sundays.
- Birthright can assist with diapers, baby wipes and formula. Request assistance by calling 573-635-8822 and leaving a message.
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, call your doctor — do not go to the emergency room unless you need to seek prompt medical attention for worsening symptoms such as difficulty breathing. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify dispatch personnel that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19.
- The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services offers a 24-hour COVID-19 hotline at 877-435-8411.
- Capital Region Medical Center offers a COVID-19 triage line at 833-763-0444.
- SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital offers a free online evaluation at ssmhealth.com/covid19.
- Compass Health has a crisis hotline at 888-237-4567 staffed by mental health professionals to help those in need of urgent care.
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline provides 24/7 free and confidential support at 1-800-273-8255.
- The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Association Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, provides 24/7 crisis counseling to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
Tags: Becky Schneider
, Central Missouri
, food banks
, food pantry
, Fred Rogers
, Jefferson City
, Madeleine Leroux
, Mid Missouri
, Mr. Rogers
, Rosemary Heidbreder
, Samaritan Center