Coronavirus affects local volunteering

Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
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A lot of community volunteers have involuntarily given up doing good deeds.

CDC advice on dealing with the coronavirus states that anyone over age 70, or younger with serious health issues, should self-quarantine.

That rule took a big bite out of the number of volunteers who had been involved in the food distribution program at St. Vincent DePaul Society in South Bend. “Our volunteer base is wonderful and dedicated, but older, and we wanted to make sure that we were safeguarding them as well as our staff and the people we’re serving,” said St. Vincent DePaul Society Executive Director Anne Watson.

St. Vincent continued to offer food for pickup at its Niles Avenue headquarters Tuesday, although the group has had to stop home deliveries that typically number 5,000 per year and provide both food for the needy and for the soul.

“When we do our home deliveries we get an opportunity to talk to people and break them out of the isolation they’re in because poverty can be very isolating, and so our volunteers love to go out and chat and maybe pray with the clients,” said Watson.

The United Way of St. Joseph County will have to postpone its Volunteer’s Income Tax Assistance program that typically prepares some 3,000 returns for elderly households using 34 volunteers. “Our volunteers are predominantly elderly individuals. The people that we serve through this program are predominantly retired and elderly households, so they’re not supposed to be in public and our volunteers aren’t supposed to gather in large groups,” said Bryan Tanner with United Way.

United Way is in the process of cancelling some 400 prearranged appointments.

If some new and younger volunteers step forward, it is envisioned that they could help in food boxing as early as next week.

St. Vincent could use food donations of boxed potatoes, rice and canned meals with meat.