Pandemic Report from the Franklin County United Way

During the global Coronavirus pandemic, we have had to stop and ask the critical question, “Are we meeting the needs of the people in our community?” At the beginning of this year, we found ourselves facing off against Meth and Opioid addictions. The addiction problem in our county has gone on for a number of years. Sadly, this has contributed to 190 students in our public schools that share a home with grandparents or friends. We don’t know the actual number of homeless that sleeps in tents or cars.

Then, March came, and with it the Covid-19 pandemic.  It hit us hard; the pandemic brought with it a plethora of issues.  One of these issues was the possibility that the healthcare system would collapse under the immense weight of a high number of cases. Secondly, many people lost their jobs as a result of the stay at home orders across the state and nation. The number of people that lost or were furloughed from their job is unprecedented.

Unfortunately, none of the agencies in Franklin County that are designed to be a safety net for the community were prepared for the onslaught of a global pandemic.  Stockpiles of supplies and money have been chipped away, and volunteers have put in countless hours. We were underfunded to face the issues before that riddled our county. As one could probably guess, we were completely underfunded to handle the Covid-19 pandemic without the help of our neighbors.

Today, our county’s unemployment rate continues to rise. We reached 9% in April. Unfortunately, we are up in May.  Some think our unemployment rate might be closer to 25% due to those that have not registered as unemployed, have given up, or are self-employed/not eligible for unemployment benefits. This dramatic increase in unemployment led families and their neighbors to fear. They were fearful of eviction, lack of food, medical care, and money for utilities. Even still, many are woefully unprepared for this life during pandemic. As a result, we have many agencies with immediate needs and increasing calls for help.

  1. Children’s Mercy Hospital furloughed many employees when they ceased elective healthcare as they prepared for a potential overflow of Covid-19 patients. This was a possibility we faced if we did not take the virus seriously and take precautions. This has upended the finances of a hospital that is essential to many children in the region. Unfortunately, there will not be Big Slick raising money and spirits this year.
  2. Elizabeth Layton Center sees to the stress that overwhelms many of us. This service is very critical still to those with addictions, and now the depression many feel from lack of social interaction.
  3. LifeCare Center is delivering to mothers and babies with curbside delivery for formula, diapers, and wipes. This is a never-ending need. Frankly, the supplies available are dwindling and desperately need to be replenished.
  4. The American Red Cross is there whenever needed. This organization commonly shows up after disasters like tornadoes and fires. However, they are also needing blood to save those in need during the pandemic. They need volunteers that are trained to help out in these emergencies.
  5. Communities in Schools of Mid-America is an agency that is more in need now than ever as homeschooling is the requirement. This organization also provides healthcare, food, and tutoring in our community. The greatest need here is those who will offer tutoring.

That is just the list of needs that agencies have delivered within the past week. Additional agency requests are the following:

  1. ECKAN assists with food distribution and housing. As previously mentioned, the high unemployment rate has led to a struggle to pay rent and utilities. ECKAN is seeing a dramatic increase in assistance for these areas.
  2. Hope House helps families in our community with utilities, food, housing, and clothing. As the homeless rate is expected to increase over the next few months, this agency is critical in giving support to those that will need it most.

Each of these organizations represented by the United Way are desperately needed. Each is in need of donations, volunteers, supplies, and money. Each of them are seeing an increase in requests for aid.  Without your help, they will be overwhelmed by the vast need in our community. Covid-19 arrived without any scheduled departure. That means one thing. We need your help. Sadly, this may not be the last time we request your help as there will be many in our community that will be in need for quite some time. However, we appreciate whatever help you are able to offer us to help those in our community.  Thank you.