Kettering nonprofits helping community during coronavirus outbreak

The Kettering Backpack program provides weekend nutrition to more than 600 students, and now with the coronavirus crisis and stay-at-home order in place, donations to the program have been pouring in to help the initiative continue help those in need.
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The Kettering Backpack program provides weekend nutrition to more than 600 students, and now with the coronavirus crisis and stay-at-home order in place, donations to the program have been pouring in to help the initiative continue help those in need.

Kettering nonprofits are working hard to survive during the coronavirus pandemic, while still maintaining a high level of service to the community.

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During this time of uncertainty caused by the COID-19 crisis, nonprofits are struggling with fiscal issues, and the daily struggle to continue to provide services that help the underserved in their communities.

Tracey Nissen, a board member with the Kettering Backpack Program understands the challenges now facing nonprofits.

“Prior to the extended stay at home, the Kettering Backpack Program was serving 619 students weekly. We are continuing to send weekend food home with students at the end of the week when they pick up breakfast and lunch at school,” she told the Dayton Daily News.

The first week, the backpack program distributed 675 bags of food, and now it is distributing 845 bags a week.

“That number continues to increase because we have families and caregivers who have lost jobs for a number of reasons and the uncertainty has raised a lot of anxiety among our families,” Nissen said. “When will the kids return to school; when will my daycare reopen; when can I go back to work; how am I going to make ends meet. Once the stay at home order is phased out, families are still going to continue to struggle, children are going to continue to be hungry and we cannot walk away from them.”

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She added that the board is working on ways to address the need over the summer.

“We anticipate our “back to school” fall numbers to increase to 700-750 students per week,” Nissen said. “Due to supply and demand issues, we have had to adjust what we are providing. We have had to adjust suppliers and reach out to a variety of resources for support.”

Since the start of the COVD-19 pandemic, the program has raised over $23,500 ($13,000 from a Dayton Foundation emergency grant; $6,500 from a Kettering Community Foundation grant and $4,000 from the Dorwood Optimist group, as well as a number of independent donors.

“We do not receive any federal or state funding. We are typically funded through the Kettering community,” Nissen explained. “The majority of donations come from individuals, churches, businesses, service organizations, fundraisers, grants and school staff members.”

The Kettering Backpack Program was awarded a Community Resilience Grant from OHIO Serve for $2,000 to purchase games, puzzles and crafts for children to use while they are spending so much time at home with their families.

Those interested in helping the backpack program can go to its website at www.ketteringbackpack.org.

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We Care Arts Executive Director, Darlene Langhout, said the nonprofit had to pause its traditional programming in mid-March. Nursing homes and assisted living centers are closed to visitors and schools are closed for the school year, pausing its outreach programming.

“At the Berkeley Center on Wilmington Pike, we serve the most vulnerable of the population daily, the decision to self-quarantine for many we serve was one of necessity,” Langhout noted. “Although our art community looks different right now, We Care Arts is finding new ways to stay connected with clients by developing virtual programming, sharing ‘at home’ artwork in an online gallery and creating art kits for clients to pick up at our art studio and stay inspired at home.”

We Care Arts is in the early stages of virtual programming, as the staff plans to create videos that can be accessed on the organization’s’s website. Programming kits will be available for curbside pickup for participants to still enjoy an artistic experience with a familiar face at home.

“This is exciting for us as a staff because we miss all of our friends in our studios. We feel connected to them and want to help even if it has to be from afar,” Langhout said.

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Many of the nonprofit’s participants and volunteers created masks to donate to organizations in need that are combating the pandemic.

“Currently, we are using their work as a way to benefit supporters of We Care Arts by listing the masks in our online gift shop for purchase for those seeking to buy masks for their day to day essential errands,” Langhout said. “Our artists will make commission, helping with some financial independence despite our regular programming being on hold.”

Those who wish to support our organization at this time may find information on our website at www.wecarearts.org. Our organization is planning on participating in #GivingTuesdayNow on May 5.

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor food pantry also ramping up efforts during the coronavirus outbreak and is open to the community. During April, it doesn’t matter what area you live in Kettering, the pantry can serve you. Hours are Monday, 3 -4 p.m.,Tuesday 5 - 6 p.m., Wednesday 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. The pantry is located at 1921 Woodman Drive.

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