Christian Service Center adjusts to new ways to do things

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, May 28, 2022

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HUGULEY — The COVID pandemic was a very difficult period for the local area, nation and world, but it did bring about some lessons learned and new ways of doing things.

Christian Service Center Director Cheryl Myers said that her organization goes about the daily work of helping the needy but with much different procedures.

“We have changed a lot in the way we do things,” she told The Valley Times-News. “When COVID hit in 2020, I was so concerned that we might have to shut down. I didn’t know what would happen to the food banks we rely on.”

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Myers, family members and volunteers at the Christian Service Center prayed a great deal on finding a way to get through a major crisis.

“I kept coming back to some scripture from the Book of Isaiah about finding new ways to do things,” she said. “We did that. We found new ways, and we never had to completely shut down. I am so glad we were able to go on helping people, especially during those dark days of the pandemic.”

In the spring of 2020, most everyone were masking up every day, avoiding gatherings and sanitizing constantly. The Christian Service Center made a radical change in giving food to those who need it.

“Before COVID, we had always met with people inside our building. At times, there would be a lot of people in the building. We knew we couldn’t go on doing things that way.”

The CSC staff went to doing as much as they could outside. People being helped would make appointments to be there at a certain time. When they arrived at the CSC building on Cusseta Road they would call on their cell phone to say there were there. They were then told to circle around the building to the left and to stop at a big table on that side of the building.

“We would get them to fill out on paper with the information we needed,” Myers said.

The staff would then take a big box of food and put it on the table next to their car. Clothing and other items being donated were put in boxes on the right side of the building.

The tables were cleaned and sanitized between visits, and the new procedure worked out really well. In fact, it’s still going on.

“We found out that we could keep doing most of what we had been doing if we got it done outside,” Myers said.

There was an unexpected bonus involved in talking to people about what they needed over the phone.

“We have found out a lot more about our families by talking to them on the phone,” Myers said. “We know them much better now. Before, they were sometimes reluctant to talk to us in person at the center.”

On many occasions. there would be a number of people waiting to talk to Myers in a waiting area. Someone in the next room talking to her might not open up out of fear of embarrassment they’d be overheard by those in the next room.

There’s another advantage in the way clothing is being distributed.

“Before the pandemic, people could come out and go through boxes of clothing looking for a particular size,” Myers said. “They now give us the sizes over the telephone, and we have clothes of those sizes ready for them to look at outside on a table. The way we are doing it now is much better.”

The CSC no longer deals with used clothing. New clothing is either purchased or donated.

“There’s not much of a market for used clothing now,” Myers said. “We also use our volunteers differently now. We spread them out over the week and don’t have a lot of them here at one time. We have a church that comes one night a month to help.”

A lot of adjustments have been made since those days back in the spring of 2020. “When COVID first started, my son Tony, my daughter Christy Eddy and I were the only ones out here three days a week,” Myers said. “I had to learn to do stuff I had thought I’d never be able to do.”

She uses her smartphone a lot better than she used to and is proud to have that skill. To qualify for help, someone needs to show a copy of their latest utility bill to prove their addresses. When COVID hit, people were allowed to text their bills.

“I learned how to send that text message to the printer, so we would have a copy of it,” she explained. “We did financial applications and Christmas applications the same way.”

Long-time CSC volunteers like Liz Landreth continued to help but at home rather than at the center. Landreth does much of the needed bookwork for the Christian Service Center.

Myers’ sons started ordering food online and having it delivered to their home in Todd Addition by UPS.

“There was one day we had 30 boxes delivered,” Myers said. “We learned to space it out and not have so much delivered in one day. That worked out pretty good for the most part.”

Boxes that are being picked up on the right side of the building contain basic needs such as soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels and masks.

The Christian Service Center is feeling the crunch of the baby formula shortage. They got 50 cans of it donated a few weeks ago. That’s dwindled down to four cans.

“We have gotten lots of calls for shower chairs, wheelchairs and walkers,” Myers said. “One thing we’re not getting much of anymore is donated furniture. Our biggest need right now is food for people who are over 60 or who are disabled. With inflation, money isn’t going as far as it used to.”

The worst period for the CSC was the initial shutdown. The week following the declaration of national emergency in March 2020, the center was closed for one week. “We didn’t know what would happen to the food closets,” Myers said.

Myers contacted the neediest families and made arrangements that they would get food. “We knew they had to have help,” Myers said. “It was so gratifying we could help them when things had gotten really bad.”

Food would be delivered to their homes in boxes. They’d be contacted by phone when the delivery was made, ensuring no face-to-face contact.

The big thing in staying open was the switch to doing everything outside.

“It allowed us to stay open,” Myers said. “Churches, businesses and individuals have continued supporting us, and we really appreciate that. “

Myers and her volunteers dealt with heartbreaking situations. Some people would call to tell them they had COVID, couldn’t leave the house and had no food.

“Lynn Clark and Tommy Weldon helped us with that,” Myers said. “They would drive to their house and leave a box of food on their doorstep. They’d then call on their cell phone to let them know the food had been delivered.”

Cheryl lost her 94-year-old mother during the pandemic. The hard part was not getting to see her for several months.

“That was really hard,” she said. “We lost so many people we had helped and who were our friends. That was hard, too. I do think things are different now. Things are opening back up, and I’m grateful for that.  I think things are working out better now.”

The Christian Service Center is a social service organization located at 5340 Cusseta Road, Lanett. It can be reached at (334) 576-3552. For an appointment, call (334) 476-2605.