As a result of the continued fight against the COVID-19, so much as changed. Yet some things remain the same. We still live in a resilient community. We help each other. We care about each other.
The month of April proved to be a busy month for Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, Inc. Through our COVID-19 children’s breakfast and lunch programs we were able to serve 7,796 breakfast(s) and 7,796 lunch(s) for a total of 15,592 meals at 12 sites in 21 days during April. Our food pantry served 2,041 households, including 3,822 individuals. Our food packages totaled 34,398 meals. To put this into prospective, April 2019, the food packages totaled 12,330! We were able to serve 358 new customers during April through our food pantry.
On April 21st we hosted a milk and dairy distribution thanks to a generous contribution from the Dairy Farmers of America and Cabot. 781 families received wholesome and nutritious milk, cottage cheese and sour cream during this event!
The staff in the Family Center and Kitchen have been super stars during our adjustment in operations. They have a commitment to serving others with a smile on their face and compassion in their hearts.
The Head Start and Pre-K programs may not have been offered in the traditional classroom setting; but learning was still accomplished. Head Start and Pre K teachers called families regularly to check in on them, they conducted Facetime and Zoom sessions, organized car parades, posted book readings on Facebook, dropped off care packages filled with learning activities and supplies (and sometimes food packages if families were in need). The staff miss the in-person interaction with the children and families but take joy when they are able to interact on line.
The Jefferson-Lewis Child Care Project continues to provide support to child care programs that remain open and serve parents who are considered essential workforce. JLCP staff traveled Jefferson and Lewis Counties delivering care packages that included books, cleaning supplies, gloves and hand sanitizer on the door steps hardworking childcare providers. Child care programs still participated in training opportunities offered on line. JLCP staff are available for parents who may have questions regarding child care and make referrals for parents looking for care. JLCP is awarding child care scholarships to essential workers who utilize NYS Registered or Licensed child care programs
Even though there has been a pause in Weatherization and Empower activities in our Housing and Energy Services Department; staff have been busy catching up on training, cleaning/disinfecting our warehouse and supporting other programs at Community Action. They have been assisting with food pantry operations. They shuttle food from the warehouse to the main building, where distribution takes place daily. They assist with filling food bags for 249 senior citizens who live in Watertown Housing Authority and Neighbors of Watertown housing area. This team was instrumental in ensuring the Milk and Dairy distribution ran smoothly on April 21st.
Our maintenance department has been instrumental in supporting all of our programs. They conduct deep cleaning daily, unload trucks that carry our food, maintain the building and grounds and generally ensure we are safe and secure.
What has not surprised us, but truly blessed us has been the overwhelming support that we have received from the community.
Watertown School District has made delivery of meals to children in the district seamless. They dutifully show up every day with two school buses and a host of school volunteers to pick up breakfast and lunch prepared by our kitchen staff (and other Community Action staff) and then they deliver to seven sites throughout the city of Watertown.
Breakfast and lunch is delivered to four sites in the General Brown School district daily by our Community Action staff.
Community Action partnered Watertown Housing Authority and Neighbors of Watertown to ensure senior citizens who live in their housing areas would receive food packages from our food pantry weekly. The goal was to limit the need for this population leave their apartments to go food shopping. We prepare 249 bags weekly that includes items such as peanut butter, tuna fish, beans, tomato sauce, soup, pasta, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables. We have also included face masks and hand sanitizer. Staff from Watertown Housing Authority and Neighbors of Watertown pick up the food bags and deliver throughout their respective housing areas.
Dollar General has supplied countless totes for food pantry packages. Additionally, they provided sturdy containers for transporting children meals throughout Watertown and General Brown School Districts. Dollar General Staff braved the freezing rain on our parking lot during the milk and dairy distribution on April 21st while cheerfully providing these products to families as they drove by.
Renzi Food Service has always been a valued partner, but they have been an invaluable resource during our COVID-19 operations. They provided a refrigerated truck to park in our parking lot to store the additional food needed to maintain the children’s feeding programs. Additionally, they have allowed us to store large quantity donations of dairy items from Cabot and the Dairy Farmers of America at their facility.
United Way of Northern New York has provided on a continuous basis much needed and hard to find supplies, such as cleaning supplies, toilet paper, baby formula and baby food.
We have received numerous monetary contributions from community organizations and individuals. Thanks to these contributions the Food Pantry shelves remain stocked with fresh produce and assorted food items.
We are especially appreciative of our sister food pantries throughout Jefferson County. This includes Watertown Urban Mission, Watertown Salvation Army and 15 other food pantries spread across Jefferson County. Together, we are collectively ensuring that residents of the North Country do not have to worry about having food for their families.
Acting out of compassion and generosity, our partners help Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County serve the community daily! We appreciate all of you.