By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 20 — On Monday, Page One’s food pantry changed its procedures for distributing food in order to follow current social distancing guidelines set forth by the governor and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
“We are taking precautions to protect our clients, workers and volunteers,” the non-profit organization’s website states.
The Page One food pantry is now utilizing a “drive-thru” approach. Clients are asked to remain in their vehicles, while a Page One volunteer brings them paperwork to fill out, such as an order form showing what items they need.
A pre-boxed order will then be prepared, as each vehicle waits its turn to drive down to the pantry door for pick-up. Clients are asked to move the boxes to their vehicle if they are able; otherwise volunteers will assist them.
“We are not having a bunch of people in the building,” Page One manager Lois Shaffer said on Monday.
The local food bank is also relaxing some if its requirements.
“They do not have to bring an ID or [financial] paperwork,” Shaffer said. “The food bank just wants them to have the food right now.”
On Monday, the Page One food bank had 28 requests for food.
“They were big families,” Shaffer noted, “with four to six people in the family.”
The uptick in demand at the local food bank is in direct correlation with the rising number of unemployment claims in the county.
“We’re seeing a lot of hospitality and restaurant workers,” Shaffer said. “These are all new clients.”
Page One had 95 new clients at its food bank in March.
There have been no changes to the hours, days or location of Page One’s food pantry. It’s open 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 35 N. Bank St. in Luray.
Page One’s three thrift shops — two in Luray and one in Shenandoah — have been closed since March 23. Shaffer estimates the non-profit has lost about $32,000 in revenue due to the closure.
“We survived the bridge … which was a $52,000 loss [for us],” the Page One manager said of Luray’s West Main Street Bridge project, which reopened traffic in front of Page One’s main thrift store last summer after a year of construction. “We had just recovered from that … had our first ‘plus’ month … and then the virus hit.”
The loss of revenue has temporarily shut down the Family Assistance portion of Page One’s services, which helps with household bills. The service is only available now on an emergency basis by calling (540) 743-4863.
Shaffer said she’s hoping to reopen the thrift stores as soon as possible.
“I’m hoping for next month,” she said. “I’m trying to get enough volunteers and make sure everything is sanitized.”
The Page One manager understands the need for social distancing to contain the highly contagious coronavirus known as COVID-19, but she also knows that there are families in need right now. Keeping the thrift stores closed, means less money to help.
“One woman…her husband, he cleaned out the account and left her with two small children,” Shaffer said. “He just took off.”
In November, Page One distributed about $16,000 in Family Assistance funds. In January, that figure stood at $10,000 — $7,000 went out in February and another $2,000 in March. The tapering off of assistance was a product of less demand.
“This is the time of year when it starts to slow down,” Shaffer said, “until we get back to cold weather, with seasonal employment ending and additional fuel bills.
“Last year, we didn’t slow down at all,“ Shaffer added.
While some government programs are helping during the COVID-19 pandemic — such as federal stimulus checks and “double” food stamps — Shaffer said the local food bank is still seeing a rising demand and needs more food donations.
“It’s going out as fast as it comes in,” Shaffer said.
The food pantry especially needs items that will appeal to children, such as:
- Peanut butter
- Hot dogs
- Fish sticks
Shaffer also notes that there is a high demand for Ensure supplemental health drinks.
“Toilet paper has been a hot item too,” she added with a laugh.
The local food bank and thrift store manager said there has been a bright side to all of this, with “quite a few people” stepping up to volunteer.
The non-profit organization also lifts spirits and fills bellies through its Outreach Ministry coordinated by Don Thomas of Bethlehem Christian Church in Stanley. Joined by Luray United Methodist Church, Mount Zion Church of the Brethren and Rileyville Church of the Brethren — volunteers distribute meals twice a month to 73 seniors throughout Page County. Anyone wishing to sign-up for that program, may call (540) 743-4863.
Donations of furniture and appliances may still be dropped off behind the 42 W. Main St. thrift shop; and household items may still be left at the 35 N. Bank St. shop.
Shaffer feels confident that the generosity of the community will pull together to take care of the less fortunate — and save the non-profit organization — as it always does.
“If we survived the bridge, we’ll survive this virus.”