Streams of Hope – Adjust to COVID
Kurtis Kaechele took the reins at Streams of Hope on February 17, just weeks before Michigan’s shelter-in-place order took effect. At that time, the agency had to switch their food pantry to a drive-through model and shutter most of their other programs. But now, seven months into COVID, how is Streams of Hope adjusting to the pandemic?
The Streams of Hope food pantry is still offering drive-through pick-up, but in July they also added a new appointment option. Clients can make an appointment online and come into the pantry to shop for themselves. They allow one appointment every five minutes. Clients have to wear a mask while they’re in the pantry, and Streams of Hope takes their temperature and asks all of the standard health checklist questions. After that, each client has fifteen minutes to shop. They get a personal shopper who goes around the pantry with them, helping them to select items while also talking to them about their family and connecting them to other programs.
Before adopting this model, Streams of Hope surveyed their food pantry clients to see how people felt about coming into the pantry, and if they had internet access to book appointments. Based on the results of that survey, they decided to keep drive-through pick-up, and about 60% of their clients continue to use that option.
Prior to COVID, Streams of Hope also offered a wide range of programs for children – from tutoring to helping kids find jobs, have fun, and engage in meaningful conversation with their peers. While a lot of their programs for middle and high school youth have remained on hold, Streams of Hope has been able to bring back their evening tutoring program for elementary school students. Over the summer they offered an online tutoring program, which worked but didn’t bring in the numbers they would have liked. They have since switched tacks and opened up their gym. They installed plexiglass dividers, and are now able to accommodate up to 80 children at a time with masks and sanitizing. Tutoring takes place twice a week on Monday and Wednesday evenings, and while some kids still connect with them online they have about 50 children a night showing up on site.
They also got a grant to improve their internet connection and make additional safety upgrades to their gym so that if schools have to shut down, they can provide a safe place for parents to bring their children for online education. As a bonus, those same changes will allow them to use the gym to start a GED program for adults.
In addition, their Circles GR program – which provides training and weekly meetings to help clients build a support network and climb out of poverty – has continued virtually without a break. And Streams of Hope also recently re-opened their weekly medical clinic and started seeing patients on site.
So, despite all the obstacles COVID has thrown in their path, Streams of Hope continues to find new and innovative ways to serve their community.