Both Meals on Wheels and the Dumas Education and Social Ministries (DESM), which operates a local food pantry at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church Pastoral Center, among other things, have seen demand for their services increase rapidly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis. Sheila Haltom, director of Meals on Wheels, and Lisa Hatley, executive director of the DESM, say it has been a struggle meeting that demand. Both organizations rely on donations from the community to keep purchasing the food that they provide to some of the most vulnerable and at-risk members of the Moore County community. On Monday, the got a little help. Joe Rivera and Irma Madrigal of the local Texas Farm Bureau agency presented a $1000 check each to Haltom and Hatley on behalf of their respective charities. "It's things like this that comes through for us, so I don't sweat the small stuff or the big stuff anymore. Someone comes through for us all the time," said Haltom.
"We have an awesome community," added Hatley.
"Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) recognized that there are folks in need because of this pandemic," said Rivera, local agent for TFB. He said the state organization matches any donation local agencies make to charities battling the health crisis. "I was thinking about who to give this to. I decided to split it up between the two. I used to volunteer for Sheila, and I know what they, the food pantry, are doing is important as well."
Rivera is also the director of the Dumas branch of Snack Pack 4 Kids, a charity that furnishes meals to Dumas Independent School District children from families in economic distress. He knows the important role donations play in keeping these non-profit organizations operating, especially in times of crisis. Snack Pack 4 Kids too has seen a rise in demand, but Rivera says donors have continued to step up with support. "Like Lisa said, we have an awesome community."
Complicating matters for local non-profits in the future will be the recent cancellation of Dogie Days. The Dumas Noon Lions Club gives out more than $100,000 of Dogie Days proceeds annually to local organizations. "That will affect a lot of programs," said Rivera. Two other large donors in the county, Valero and JBS, are facing challenges too.
Still, the three organizations have managed to keep going, in part by cooperating with each other. When the DESM and Meals on Wheels started having problems getting staple foods, such as beans and rice, from the High Plains Food Bank, Snack Pack 4 Kids was able to help them get supplies from food wholesaler Affiliated Foods. "We are working together," said Rivera. All three organizations have had to struggle with disruptions in the food and grocery supply system caused by the health crisis.
In a change brought about by the health crisis, all three organizations have now added donated sanitizers and hygiene items to the list of things they distribute to clients. "If people don't have food, they are probably going to buy food before they buy sanitary items," said Hatley. The distribution of these items has been made possible by recent large donations by Pritesh Bhakta, Dr. Justin Corbin, and the women's club called Esprit.
Hatley said that for the month of April, the food pantry served 1200 people, considerably more than the 300 in the month of March. In addition to the people who show up every Thursday evening for the food pantry, Hatley says her organization is also now providing food for people in quarantine.
Haltom says Meals on Wheels is now serving 150 elderly and disabled clients in the county. She says the organization has had to add social distancing precautions to the way meals are delivered. There are no more living room chats with clients. Despite the fact that some of her volunteers are themselves at-risk, Haltom says not a single one has dropped out. Expenses are rising quickly, Haltom says. The money she received Monday "will help us a whole lot."