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To-go lunches among changes at Rowan Helping Ministries

SALISBURY — Across the state, restaurants have been forced to adapt to a state mandate requiring them to halt dine-in service, and one nonprofit is having to take similar steps at lunch to avoid the spread of coronavirus in their facility.

Among other coronavirus-related precautions, Rowan Helping Ministries is now serving lunch in to-go containers to members of the public. Those who reside in the homeless shelter are still allowed to eat in the cafeteria, though there are a smaller number of tables and those that remain are spaced out.

As members of the public filed into what’s known as Jeanne’s Kitchen last week, they were asked to wash their hands before receiving a to-go container from Wayne Turlington, who works at the shelter and said he’s noticed fewer people coming to receive meals since coronavirus became a concern.

As they filed in, just a few at a time, people said they didn’t mind not being able to eat inside of the shelter. They were just grateful to have a meal to eat, and many opted to do so just outside of the building within a covered seating area.

The shelter also received a $5,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation last week to purchase 1,250 meals for Jeannie’s Kitchen and fund kitchen staff. Rowan Helping Ministries delivers services through a large number of volunteers, which have been in shorter supply than usual lately because public health officials are encouraging people to stay home.

“In addition to our shelter guests and clients who are housed but already struggling to make ends meet, we anticipate more families will experience financial hardship. We are grateful to receive this grant to help feed our neighbors,” said Kyna Grubb, Rowan Helping Ministries executive director.

Because of other changes, Rowan Helping Ministries doesn’t require as many volunteers as usual, but it’s still in need. So, the nonprofit put out a call for volunteers who meet health-related criteria, including not experiencing an illness that includes a cough, sneezing, sore throat, fever, chills, stomach, virus or diarrhea within the previous two weeks.

Other notable changes at Rowan Helping Ministries have included suspending financial assistance, except if someone is being evicted because major companies and municipalities have stopped cutoffs for lack of payment; no longer offering clients to choose food from its pantry, instead giving them volunteer-chosen items; mandatory screening for people entering the facility; halting clothing appointments until March 30th and not accepting clothing donations.

Grubb said people who have a utility shutoff notice should still pay as much of the bill as possible because the total due will continue to grow, even if companies say services won’t be cutoff.

Asked about residents in the shelter, Grubb said there are more than 50 people in the men’s dorm, but Rowan Helping Ministries is their home and that staff have taken steps to separate those who are in the shelter all the time.

“This is not the time to kick those people out,” she said.

She said the homeless shelter has frequently dealt with varieties of sickness in the past and that there are a variety of hygiene and sanitation procedures that aim to limit the spread of sickness.

As for getting food when store shelves are lighter than normal, Grubb said she hadn’t noticed any trouble yet. Rowan Helping Ministries works three weeks in advance on food orders, she said.

“We seem to be getting what we need,” she said.

Those interested in volunteering, can contact Betsy Warner, volunteer manager, at bwarner@rowanhelpingministries.org.

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