United Way assists community organizations in coronavirus response


GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)–The United Way of Greenville County is working overtime amid the coronavirus crisis. They’re operating as a hub to bring several local non-profits together and give them the support they need.

One of their main focuses is the elderly population. Normally, seniors would be headed to eight senior action locations across Greenville County. But right now, those centers are closed.

“We have been handing out meals to them, we have a drive through set up so they can pickup food,” Andrea Smith, executive director of Senior Action, said.

Smith said they always receive funds from Untied Way, but now is especially important.

“As this goes on and lasts longer we may end up having some additional relationship with them that we’re not even aware of in the moment,” Smith said.

United Way CEO Meghan Barp said this population is of high concern.

“How can we make sure that adults and individuals have access to food as well,” Barp said.

She said anyone who doesn’t know what to do can use them as a resource.

“Anybody in our community and our elders who might need support can call 211,” Barp said.

On Thursday, the United Way of Greenville County expanded the hours of that help line to be available 24/7.

Smith said the seniors coming to pick up meals have been so grateful .and that this is the time to support each other.

“I think that’s the beautiful part of all of this. People are locking arms together and making sure people are being served,” Smith said.

The United Way is also putting a focus on the homeless population. Homeless shelters across Greenville County are filling up amid the coronavirus.

“We’re looking at you name the population that is vulnerable and United Way and our partners are in that space to make sure we have a response planned,” Barp said.

“We are working on our next steps now that shelters are all at capacity,” Susan McLarty, coordinator of the Greenville Homeless Alliance, said.

The Greenville Homeless Alliance is working with the United Way and others to come up with a plan.

“Many of our shelters have either closed or are full or they’ve dialed back capacity,” Barp said.

They’re trying to figure out how to keep the homeless population healthy and informed.

“We are having a call later today to try and understand what other measures we could be thinking about as a community,” McLarty said.

They’re asking for the community to help as well. GHA said right now the best way they can do that is to donate and put pressure on congress to include this group of people in relief funds.

“We advocate that our federal funding package should include resources for people experiencing homelessness,” McLarty said.

The United Way is also assisting local food banks. Harvest Hope Food Bank has changed the way they’re doing things moving to a drive-thru pickup process.

“They have a choice between do I pay for the medicine do I pay for the mortgage or do I buy food,” Barry Phillips, district director of Harvest Hope Food Bank, said.

Phillips said they’re trying to make that struggle easier.

“We try to take that choice away from them where they don’t have to choose to pay their bills or their medicine and we can provide the food,” Phillips said.

They receive federal assistance and also help from organizations like United Way.

“We partner with several non-profit organizations in our community and we have large volunteer efforts,” Barp said.

Barp said providing food is their number one priority right now.

“We’ve organized our food providers our non-profits and food banks to make sure people are fed,” Barp said.

Phillips said hundreds of people have come by every day to pick up supplies. If you’re looking to donate you can give money or donate non-perishables.

“You can drop them off here and we’ll take them drop them off at our doors,” Phillips said.

United Way has also set up a specific fund that is accepting donations to help with coronavirus related relief.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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