Being involved with Lebanon County Christian Ministries for 20 years, Noon Meal Coordinator Heather Kumler has found her calling.
Kumler’s family began its involvement with LCCM because of her mother-in-law, Wenda DiNatale, being on staff at LCCM. As a mother of three, Kumler also encourages volunteerism in her children. She and her three children had recently volunteered for Summer Food Program, which feeds children in the county.
Even though LCCM did not always have a kitchen, DiNatale still found a way to provide the county with food and Kumler was able to assist.
“Before LCCM had a kitchen of their own, my father-in-law and I would cook meals (with DiNatale) and would serve as take out at churches in our community,” said Kumler.
Kumler's responsibilities now require her to oversee the food bank and offer volunteers guidance and direction to ensure that food orders are packed with nutritious and healthy foods. She also guides volunteers by assisting in the development of the menus for the Noon Meal Program along with developing the meals themselves.
Kumler looks back on her volunteer experiences at LCCM as preparation to fulfill her responsibilities as a member of the staff at the organization. With all of her experience as a volunteer at the organization throughout the years, Kumler would tell someone who is interested in volunteering that they will get much more out of the experience than they can contribute.
When volunteering, Kumler says, “volunteers are a blessing and a necessity to the ministry, though most times volunteers receive a greater blessing.”
Written by Jensen Burnheimer
Lebanon County Christian Ministries is working in conjunction with Lebanon Valley College students to tell the story of LCCM through the lens of its volunteers, guests, staff and board throughout the season of Lent
COVID-19: Food insecurity continues to grow in Lebanon County and 4 other things you should know about LCCM
Clint waited in line at the free noon meal at Lebanon County Christian Ministries on Wednesday.
The Lebanon man, a medical transport driver, has been to the noon meal periodically in the past but has come back recently because his hours at work have been cut down from 40 per week to about 25 – 30, if he’s lucky - as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“There’s just not enough work to go around,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, demand for food assistance in Lebanon County - and throughout the world – is surging.
Lebanon County residents facing food insecurity are turning to food pantries such as Lebanon County Christian Ministries, the Caring Cupboard in Palmyra and J.O.Y. Pantry in Jonestown in greater numbers.
“Overall, we are seeing an increase in noon meal guests and individuals seeking emergency food orders,” said Bryan Smith, LCCM’s Executive Director.
More: Lebanon County households financially affected by by COVID-19 seeking food assistance at LCCM
What that need will look like in two to three months is anyone’s guess, but LCCM is making projections based off preliminary data collected in the first few weeks of the crisis that the need will continue to rise.
“I think the biggest thing is the unknowns,” Smith said. “While we’ve seen an upward trend in needs, we don’t know if those trends will continue to grow at the same pace or if there will be an exponential growth leading to higher demand.”
Here are 5 things you should know about how COVID-19 is affecting LCCM and how you can help.
If you or someone you know needs food assistance, please be advised of our modified hours. Call 717-272-4400 to schedule an appointment.
1. The growing need
Staff and volunteers began noticing a gradual increase in noon meal attendance numbers in mid-March. Daily attendance rose from it’s normal 130 individuals to 167, then skyrocketing to 212 in just one week.
Emergency food orders for individuals and families also steadily began to rise. LCCM sees an average of about 38 households needing emergency food each week, but recently it’s been averaging between 50 to 60 households each week.
Since mid-March through Friday, April 3, LCCM served 39 households financially affected by the crisis – those households include 116 individuals. Ninety-seven percent of those households experienced job loss as a result of the crisis, while 3 percent saw a reduction in hours at work. Ninety-five percent were working full-time.
In the chart below, we’ve included the total number of households and individuals served (normal need as well as households affected by COVID) over the past five weeks. You can see how the need spiked at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis during Week 3.
With only eight full-time staff members and one part-time staff member, LCCM heavily relies on more than 80 in-house volunteers throughout its many programs every week.
“We have absolutely seen a decrease in volunteers because a lot of our volunteers are at-risk individuals, and we respect that and appreciate and encourage them to stay home and do what they need to for their own health and their family’s health,” Smith said.
With that loss, LCCM has, however, seen an uptick in other volunteers who are able to step in and fill in the gaps.
If you'd like to help, sign up here and we'll send out an eblast as needs arise.
3. Safety measures and modified hours
LCCM is still in operation but has modified its hours and put safety measures in place to protect its staff, volunteers and guests. These changes include:
4. Food supply
LCCM is still able obtain food purchases from vendors though there has been a slow down in product acquisition.
“What we used to be able to call and have delivered in two days now has a three-to-five day lead time,” Smith said during a Facebook live chat with Dede Carmichael of the United Way of Lebanon County and Shila Ulrich, Executive Director of The Caring Cupboard.
Smith said LCCM must forecast what its food needs are going to look like three to four days from now for both the noon meal and emergency food orders, which is a moving target.
“The reality is that our numbers are changing so aggressively day to day that I’m not sure that we’re projecting exactly what we need and if we try to project greater than that three to five days out – we’re going to be in a world of hurt,” he said during the interview. “We’re banking on our food vendors to be able to keep supplying and sourcing us.”
5. How you can help
Food banks across America are experiencing an increase in need amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Rather than paying retail prices, LCCM works with vendors and retailers to secure food. This means that when you donate a dollar, you’re helping LCCM provide more food for individuals and families than if you donated food that you purchased at the store.
You can make a one-time donation,become a member of our Love Your Neighbor monthly giving club, create your own personal fundraising page for your birthday or keep us in mind for planned giving.
You can also become part of our large network of volunteers. You can sign uphere for emergency volunteering needs or check back here to see the regular needs when we resume normal activities.
Written by Andrea Gillhoolley, Director of Development and Marketing. Contact Andrea at email@example.com or call 717-272 4400 ext. 211
By Bryan Smith, LCCM Executive Director
Providing a homeless shelter is easy, right? I mean, just throw a couple cots on the floor and let folks come in and sleep.
Well, the reality is that it isn’t that easy.
Add to that when you designate your shelter as a family shelter - where men and women will comingle with families and children - and it gets a whole lot more complicated. Safety becomes a significant priority, not that it isn’t a priority at a men’s only or a women’s only shelter, but it certainly creates an interesting dynamic.
The FRESH Start Resource Center and Homeless Shelter has been making it work for the last three years at the LCCM building on South 7th Street.
Before FRESH Start, it was a partnership between Jubilee and Lebanon County Christian Ministries (LCCM) called HOPES. During the three years of service at LCCM, the team has learned a lot about managing the day-to-day operations.
Today, the FRESH Start provides guests with a full kitchen, laundry facilities, a children’s play area, a shower/bathroom, computers for housing and job search needs, and a common space to do homework, pay bills, and many other activities.
The overnight accommodations are provided by generous churches in our community and the volunteer membership who provide the staffing nightly. These spaces are considered congregate living spaces. Each church takes a two-week period to provide snacks and sleeping areas.
All our guests are required to provide a warrant check and a urine screen for illicit drugs.
Once both are clear, the intake process begins.
Offered a small bin for personal effects and storage space on a rack for food, our guests begin a week of acclimation to shelter life and then the case management begins.
What jobs did you apply for today? Have you worked to secure childcare so you can get a job? Did you go to work today and is your performance what your boss is expecting? Did you apply for SNAP benefits or MA? Did you go to your doctor appointment that was on your schedule? Accountability questions posed by our staff to ensure our guests begin to address personal responsibility and executing tasks to meet goals that have been established cooperatively with our team.
Now, enter COVID-19.
Our worlds, just like yours, were turned upside down.
We immediately began to establish an emergency plan of action. This plan of action was a multi-step plan that was intended to be proactive to our guests needs and the ever-changing COVID cases in our community.
We had anticipated a reduction in volunteers and a need to protect the volunteers in the churches. We needed to find a location where we were able to isolate our guests if needed, a place to have a refrigerator, a cooking device (i.e. microwave), and shower facilities.
Meeting all these needs is a hotel/motel. We partnered with a local hotel to establish aggressive rates and were able to quickly register all our guests. We also established a house agreement with each of our guests outlining the expected behaviors and the behaviors that would result in immediate dismissal from our program.
Additionally, we were able to modify our hours of operations and the time our guests spent in our resource center.
We established specific times and days for each family unit to come and prepare meals for the week, pickup needed food for the next week, do their laundry and get any other essentials. Every day our staff checks in with guests, which includes a COVID screening question. This gets documented every day to ensure we identify any concerns immediately.
Through partnership with Wellspan, we have a tablet device that should a guest respond “yes” to any questions on the screening, we could do a virtual urgent care visit at no cost. This plan has afforded our guests and staff with increased safety AND keeping folks accountable.
While there has been a cost associated with this, our decision has been reaffirmed with best practices coming from California. In a recent white paper titled, “Recommended Strategic Approaches for COVID-19 Response for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness – March 2020,” the document states best practices are hotel/motel environments. The Lebanon community has been working diligently to address three classes of individuals:
All three categories have ideal housing solutions to include hotel/motel to address social distancing and isolation.
We believe our early planning and action to partner into a hotel/motel space has provided the highest level of protection for our guests and our staff. After all, safety has been and always will be our priority for our guests, staff, and volunteers.