With the weather becoming a bit cooler and the calendar telling us summer has turned to fall, this was a time when schools, fraternal organizations, clubs and other social organizations geared up for the new business year. COVID-19 has changed all that.
With state restrictions still in place regarding gatherings, and masks needed for any indoor activity where people are congregated, clubs and organizations have either gone to online meetings, or suspended operation until things open up again.
But the turn from summer to fall also brought our minds to the needs of those less fortunate in our community, and many of the organizations that picked up again in September also began collecting things for the city’s oldest operating agency to help those in need of food and other necessities, the West Haven Emergency Assistance Taskforce (WHEAT).
Begun as an outreach of the West Haven Clergy Association in the late 1970s, the agency became an independent operation and has provided thousands of families with food relief in time of need. The agency’s executive director, Rose Majestic, said this week COVID-19 has led to an uptick in the number of families looking for assistance. And the reasons vary.
“The pandemic has increased the number of families/individuals needing food from us three fold. The people coming to us are a combination of the unemployed, parents who are at home with their children and need extra food, plus those on fixed incomes. We aren’t able to judge if opening part of the economy has helped,” she said.
Many times, when the shelves at WHEAT’s Washington Avenue headquarters were low, the word would go out that new collections had to take place. That helped, but WHEAT looks to a larger group to stock its shelves during most of the year.
”Eighty to ninety percent of our food comes from the CT Food Bank. The rest comes from our West Haven community. Even though donations from organizations are down, individual donations from the community have increased,” Majestic said.
Schools in West Haven always participated in collecting foodstuffs as did many social and fraternal organizations, in these pandemic times, Majestic and her volunteer staff have had to look elsewhere for food.
“Understandably, schools are not able to collect for us at this time,” Majestic said. “We are receiving much more food from the CT Food Bank. They’ve done a tremendous job in making sure all agencies are getting as much as possible.”
While the shelves are pretty well stocked, there are things the community can do to help, either in groups, or as individuals, according to Majestic.
“We are doing well in terms of the amount of food we have. We are able to give out an adequate amount of food to everyone who comes. We need Mac & Cheese, Green Beans, Peanut Butter, Cold Cereal, Tomato Sauce and Soup (any kind),” she said.
In keeping with the goals of the agency, Majestic is encouraging people who know a family in need to relate the agency’s hours and what it can do to help/
“If someone knows of anyone who is in need of food, please tell them to come to WHEAT. We’re open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2-4:30. Everyone must wear a face covering and bring a photo ID and two pieces of mail,” she said.
Majestic noted that every community is dealing with the pandemic, and the struggle is not just in getting enough to eat, but in other ways.
“Our community, like all communities, is dealing with a pandemic that has left us struggling economically, psychologically, and living a life of unknowns and new realities,” she said. “
During this pandemic time people have given a lot of support to the agency’s goals, and sometimes have left good wishes.
“We are grateful to everyone in West Haven who has sacrificed money and food to help us during this crisis. And we are very touched by the notes people send thanking us for what we do. It boosts our morale as we struggle to feed everyone while adjusting to a “new normal” ourselves,” she said.
Those looking to contact WHEAT can do so by calling( 203) 931-9877 or email email@example.com with questions, comments, etc. You can visit its Facebook page: WHEAT of West Haven, or visit our new website, wheatpantry.org.