As the new coronavirus pandemic extends into another week, many Americans face reduced hours and pay or no jobs at all. Communities need the assistance of nonprofit groups like the winners of WORLD’s 2019 Hope Awards for Effective Compassion even more at this time. The spread of the disease makes it harder to help the poor, but the ministries’ reliance on God provides hope and clarifies their purpose.
As of Monday, Joplin, Mo., had only one confirmed case of COVID-19, but the Watered Gardens gospel rescue mission, the 2019 Hope Awards grand prize winner, was already taking precautions. Shelter staff members took the temperature of homeless people and asked them a series of questions before they entered the mission: Have you recently traveled? Do you feel feverish? Do you have a cough? If someone answered yes, the shelter staff sent them to a hospital. Some volunteers, especially elderly ones, elected not to come in to help, while the office staff worked from home. Those who work directly with clients practiced social distancing and tried to figure out how the shelter’s workshop, known as the Worth Shop, could produce masks.
Watered Garden’s Neighbor Connect program, which pairs one neighbor’s needs to another’s skill, prepared to deliver meals to impoverished families in isolation. Executive Director James Whitford said he was reminding staff members and volunteers “what we’re here for and what Christ would do if He were here.” The shelter’s finances remain steady for now, though some grocery stores have reduced food donations. Whitford anticipates the stock market’s fluctuations eventually will cut into giving: “I think privately funded missions around the country are going to feel that, and I think we are too.”
In Indianapolis, Hope Awards regional winner Purposeful Design shut down its furniture workshop until April 7. On Tuesday, the last day the shop’ was open, about 30 craftsmen, office workers, and volunteers gathered in the morning to pray.
“We had a really good time of encouragement,” ministry director David Palmer said. “We talked about how we want to come back stronger after this time than before it.” They discussed Hebrews 3:13—“Exhort one another every day … that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”—and planned to keep in touch through group chat messages. Staff members also came up with 14 ideas of things to do during the two weeks off, like taking a prayer walk or baking bread. The craftsmen will receive half-pay during that time.
Meanwhile, Little Light Christian School, a Hope Awards regional winner in Oklahoma City, is closed at least until early April. Principal Robin Khoury said the school still distributes boxes of food for the students’ families with the help of donors and local food banks. She noted that most of the families with students at the school operate with very thin margins. The school is creating a plan for distance learning while waiting to see what state and county schools will do for the rest of the academic year.
In Louisville, Ky., the strip clubs are closed, but “the church ladies” of Hope Award regional winner Scarlet Hope are still texting the dancers. The ministry’s office staff is working from home, and clients in the career development program are completing assignments remotely and receiving case management by phone while still receiving pay from the ministry. On Thursdays, they can pick up food and supplies. So far, donors have been quick to provide in-kind donations, though Scarlet Hope’s two bakeries, which help fund the ministry to former sex workers, reduced their hours. Scarlet Hope canceled its first large fundraiser of the year. “It may look different, but we’ll keep doing what we’re doing: letting these women know that Jesus loves them,” Executive Director Ronelle Brumleve said.