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Covid-19 Updates from our CEO, Cindy Shafer

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JULY 28, 2020

Greetings!

The first half of 2020 has been an unprecedented time in our lives as we’ve all been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, Network has been on the frontlines of this crisis providing food, housing assistance and job search resources to our neighbors in need. We are extremely grateful for the tremendous support we have received from our community.

Network continues to see an increased demand for services, especially for housing assistance. Many who were managing to pay their rent and utilities on time have now fallen behind due to a reduction in income and continued lay-offs. We’re seeing more individuals and families who’ve never faced eviction before now experiencing situational homelessness. Since mid-March, we have provided more than $145,000 in rental and utility assistance to over 400 families.

The need for job resources is also front and center at this time and Network’s Job Search Services has been answering the call. Offered as part of our stabilization programming, Network’s Job Search Services team is able to provide our clients with tools they need to locate and obtain a new job that pays a “living wage’. Weekly virtual Job Seeker Workshops provide information on job searching, resume building, interview tips and other valuable resources. After attending a workshop, clients are able to schedule one on one sessions with a Job Coach to help incorporate these lessons into their own personal search.

As we adapt to a new way of business, we know one thing for certain – the demand for Network’s services will only continue to grow. With your help, we will be there for our neighbors to help them navigate through these uncertain times.

Sincerely,

Cindy Shafer
President and CEO

JULY 8, 2020

Greetings!

It was an exciting week at Network as we hosted our first ever virtual town hall meeting “The State of Network”. Thank you to everyone who participated! We hope you found it informative and helpful to learn more about Network’s growth and increased demand for services particularly over the past year.

We have included a link to the meeting below so you can share with your friends or others who may be interested in learning more about Network. And, if you weren’t able to attend, we’d love for you to watch! Just click on the link below and enter the following password:

9C!Y9?G?

If you have questions about anything we discussed, I would be happy to meet with you. Just contact my assistant, Bri Hernandez at bhernandez@thenetwork.org to schedule a time.

JUNE 1, 2020

MAY 21, 2020
MAY 14, 2020
MAY 8, 2020

Dear Friends of Network,

This coming weekend, many of us will pay tribute to our mothers—- the people in our lives who have nurtured us and continue to support us through thick and thin.

In the same way that our mothers have been there for us, our community has been there for Network— helping to strengthen and nurture our crucial programs throughout the year, and support our ongoing growth. Whether it be a devastating tornado or a crippling pandemic, YOU HAVE STOOD BY US, AND WE ARE TRULY GRATEFUL FOR YOUR ONGOING SUPPORT.

Of the 73 families we have helped with rent since mid-March, the majority are headed by single mothers with children, as are many of the families we have helped with food. The thought of not being able to provide a safe home and nutritious meal for your children is a frightening one for these women, who routinely sacrifice their own needs for their families. Many have shared how thankful they are:

I am very grateful. My apartment called me yesterday and told me t hey received the check. I am so grateful for the help you gave me with my son Abraham. You are a nice person. You are a good person. You have patience and you listened. …. I’ve been calling some other people…. they say ‘I don’t understand’ and they hang up the phone. So thank you so much for your call back….”

“You have put a smile on my kids and I…. Thanks so much for this great help you did for us; we will never be ungrateful ”

Encouraged by one of our donors who made a donation this week in honor of her mother (as a Mothers Day present to her), I am inviting you to do the same. What a wonderful way to honor your mother – knowing that you are making a difference for other mothers as well—giving them hope so they can move through these tough times.

I thank you for continuing to stand by us and hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Sincerely,

Cindy Shafer
President and CEO

MAY 7, 2020
MAY 2, 2020
MAY 1, 2020

Dear Friends of Network,

The past few weeks my updates have stressed the sheer volume of need we’ve seen using facts and figures. This week I would like to share with you the more personal side of our efforts over the past 6 weeks.

We have made every effort to emphasize the increasing presence of a new group of clients since we started this response— individuals who have not sought any type of assistance from Network in the past, but now find themselves in extremely challenging situations. During the first 5 weeks of our COVID response, nearly half (48%) of the families we have helped with food and housing assistance were NEW clients.

This trend is coupled with our existing clients needing more frequent and different kinds of assistance as they cope with additional strains on their already limited resources.

Through it all our staff and volunteers continue to hear words of thanks from these individuals and families.

Also, the time and resources many of you have given are continuing to make a difference. Along with several of our current volunteers, 251 new volunteers have contributed their time to Network over the past 5 weeks. In whatever capacity you have been able to help us during this time, WE THANK YOU.

Network’s COVID response effort continues to be a marathon rather than a sprint, as many will not return to their jobs, and family incomes will be impacted. To that end we ask for your continued support.

How YOU can help:

  • Organize or Contribute to a food drive in your area. We are currently updating information on upcoming drives and will post this information on our website when we receive it.
  • Collect needed items on your own and bring to Network (741 S. Sherman Street, Richardson, Monday-Thursday 9 am to 4:45 pm, Friday Noon to 8 PM and Saturday 9 am to Noon. Our most needed items are canned vegetables and meats, soup, beans, rice, pasta, peanut butter and jellies.
  • Place an order through Amazon to come to Network: For donors who may want to shop online and ship directly to Network, we also have an Amazon wish list
  • Volunteer!Click this Link for Available Slots
  • Donate Financially

I thank you for your continued support and hope you and your family stay safe and healthy.
Sincerely,

Cindy Shafer
President and CEO

APRIL 29, 2020
APRIL 24, 2020

Dear Friends of Network,

This past week at Network has been one of overwhelming generosity, record breaking food distribution, and welcomed partnerships.

The community has answered our call for assistance in a HUGE way with multiple food drives during the past week by Canyon Creek HOA, First Baptist Richardson, First United Methodist, St. Barnabas, and many more, Last weekend we received  over 10,000 lbs. of needed food items from these drives, helping to fill empty food shelves.

However, just as quickly  as food has come in, it has gone out — at record levels . This past Tuesday, we served 218 families with over 16,000 lbs. of food  IN ONE DAY. Counting what we are giving to RISD schools, we now serve over 2000 families per week—a 10 fold increase over levels prior to the COVID outbreak.

In addition, since the COVID response began, Network has provided:

  • 6,585 weekend meal boxes containing 135,000 lbs. of food to RISD families
  • $24,940 in rent and utility assistance to 80 families
  • 240 meal boxes to Seniors’ Net clients through home delivery

Network continues to benefit from unique community partnerships during this time to strengthen our efforts. The “Richardson Strong” blue sign initiative  conceived by Methodist Richardson Hospital and produced by Logotology is allocating all sign proceeds to Network. First United Methodist Church of Richardson is also donating all proceeds of their “Hope Is Not Canceled” sign initiative to Network. Also this week, DART employees with reduced work schedules began delivering food to Network client families with children who have been unable to get to our food pantry for assistance.

Moving forward,  keeping our food pantry well-stocked and maintaining enough resources to assist impacted families with mounting housing expenses remain our top priorities.

Ways to Help

  • Collect needed food items on your own and bring to Network (Monday – Thursday from 9 am to 5:45 pm and Friday 9 am to Noon at 741 S. Sherman, Richardson) or you may also drop off items at First Baptist Church (Monday-Thursday from 1 pm to 5 pm – 1001 N. Central Expwy, Richardson, Front of Bldg F)
  • Place an order through Amazon to come to Network: For donors who may want to shop online and ship directly to Network, we also have an Amazon wish list with these and other needed items. You can find the wish list here.
  • Donate Financially 
  • The items we need most are:  Canned meats and vegetables, soups, beans, rice, pasta, peanut butter and jellies.

    I thank you for your ongoing support,and wish safety and health for you and your family.
    Sincerely,

    Cindy Shafer
    President and CEO

    APRIL 22, 2020
    APRIL 21, 2020
    APRIL 17, 2020

    Dear Friends of Network,

    Network’s response to this challenging time continues, as we stay focused on safely meeting the needs of our neighbors with food, housing assistance and other supportive services.

    Those receiving help have been quick to express their gratitude to us and share the difference it has made. A mother of a 4 month old who had returned to work after maternity leave, only to be laid off, recently received rental assistance from us. “Thank you so much and God bless you—you have helped me tremendously and have been very patient with me from start to end.”

    This impact, fueled in large part by your generosity, continues to grow more each day as our ongoing tallies show.

    We are still having difficulty getting ​large enough quantities of certain food items ​to meet ​our growing demand and wanted to once again reach out to you for your assistance.​ Last week we filled an average of 115 food pantry pick-up orders per day-more than double the amount we process normally. In addition, our partnership with RISD schools continues with the provision of over 1,200 weekend food boxes per week.

    How YOU can help:

    1. Contribute to a food drive in your area. We will be posting collection sites on our website. Opportunities over the next week are:

    • Canyon Creek HOA – Saturday, April 18 from 10 am to Noon (ll Creeks Plaza – 2701 Custer Rd, Richardson)
    • First Baptist Church – Weekly Monday-Thursday from 1 pm to 5 pm (1001 N. Central Expwy, Richardson, Front of Building F)
    • Richardson Pediatric Associates – Monday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm through April 24 (1112 N. Floyd Road, Ste 7, Richardson, Box in Foyer)

    2. Collect needed items on your own and bring to Network (Monday – Thursday from 9 am to 5:45 pm and Friday 9 am to Noon)

    3. Place an order through Amazon to come to Network: For donors who may want to shop online and ship directly to Network, we also have an Amazon wish list with these and other needed items. You can find the wish list here.

    4. Donate Financially

    The items we need most are:

    Canned Vegetables
    Canned Meats
    Soups
    Beans
    Rice
    Pasta
    Peanut Butter
    Jellies

    I am continually impressed with the overwhelming generosity coming from this community. I thank you for your ongoing support, and wish safety and health for you and your family.
    Sincerely,

    Cindy Shafer
    President and CEO

    APRIL 13, 2020
    APRIL 10, 2020

    Dear Friend of Network,

    This past week at Network has been filled with a growing number of families coming to our facility and calling for assistance, as well as the ongoing preparation of weekend meal boxes for distribution at RISD schools. Our food pantry pick-up orders are averaging 90 per day— still double the amount we process normally. Network’s impact since our response to the virus outbreak began in mid-March is as follows:

    • 3,756 weekend food boxes containing 69,809 lbs. of food have been distributed to RISD campuses
    • $14,045 in rent and utility assistance has been provided to 48 families
    • 160 meal boxes have been delivered to the homes of Seniors’ Net clients

    We welcomed the arrival of a National Guard team on Monday to help with much of the heavy lifting and countless tasks associated with our food distribution. These hardworking young men will be joining our volunteers for at least the next month to help with our increased workloads.

    Also of note, in addition to our expanded food distribution and processing of requests for housing assistance, Network continues to conduct job coaching through an online platform set up for virtual one on one sessions with our job coach. This service is needed more than ever at this time.

    Challenges to our COVID-19 response persist, with a mounting food shortage being one of our primary ones right now. Due to our rising distribution levels, we are having difficulty securing large quantities of certain food items to fill our food orders including canned meats, canned vegetables, soups, pasta, and jellies. For those of you who have lent your support to this unprecedented effort, I THANK YOU .

    We will continue to incur increased expenses and need donated items during the months ahead. Please consider a financial contribution, a donation of food from the list above, or filling a volunteer shift.

    To those who are celebrating, I wish you a Happy Easter or Passover. Please continue to stay safe and healthy.

    Sincerely,

    Cindy Shafer
    President and CEO

    APRIL 9, 2020
    APRIL 3, 2020

    Dear Friend of Network,

    This past week, as I observed Network’s continued response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was especially moved by two situations.

    First, the tireless work of our volunteers, many doing multiple shifts a week, has been nothing short of amazing. Working short-handed shifts, both current volunteers and those new to Network have stepped up in a very large way. Since our response to the pandemic began, 125 new volunteers have donated their time. One of our regular volunteers, Leah, who is now volunteering 4 days a week in Network’s reception area, shared “During a crisis like this, I want to volunteer even more because I know I’m needed more than ever.” Marilyn, a 13 year Network volunteer, states “I like working with clients to take a burden off them if we can and that makes me feel good. I’m trying to help boost their morale as low as it is right now.” A new volunteer, David, said “I saw the posts for help on social media and decided to sign up. I feel like giving back is so important right now.”

    Second, the changing nature of our need has been overwhelming. We are seeing a new group of people coming to Network for help – those who have never had to ask before, but now find themselves running short on food, and unable to meet monthly housing expenses due to economic hardships. On a single day this week, Network served 204 families through the Food Pantry, compared to a normal rate of 50 per day. With weekly meal boxes going to RISD schools as well, our overall food distribution has more than doubled. Equally as troubling, our daily requests for rental assistance have reached 100. And while evictions are being suspended until mid May, late fees are not, so many who cannot pay their rent are incurring steep penalties, which sometimes compound DAILY.

    Our response to the pandemic to date includes the following:

    • 2,350 weekend food boxes totaling 37,731 lbs. distributed at 13 RISD school locations;
    • Nearly $7,800 in utility and rental assistance provided to 32 families;
    • 120 meal boxes delivered to Seniors’ Net clients

    We continue to need your help as we navigate this ever-changing situation and put resources in place to respond to these needs. Please consider giving financially, volunteering or donating food.

    Thank you,

    Cindy Shafer
    President and CEO

    P.S. Please share this message with your family and friends. We’re all in this together.

    APRIL 3, 2020
    APRIL 2, 2020
    APRIL 1, 2020
    MARCH 31, 2020
    MARCH 27, 2020

    Dear Friends of Network,

    As all of us adjust each day to our “new normal” amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, I wanted to once again update you on current activities and needs at Network.

    RISD Partnership: Operations continue to ramp up at Network as the demand for emergency assistance increases daily. Our school-based distribution in partnership with RISD began today, with the district picking up nearly 1,100 food bags and boxes weighing 16,500 lbs. These weekend food packages will be distributed to students and their families at 13 district schools. We expect this effort to continue as long as the schools are closed, and to increase in number by the week.

    Services at Network : With a modified service model we are still providing daily food packages at our main food pantry, with 360 families served over the past two weeks, and 35% more food distributed than during normal operations. Additionally, we continue to work with families over the phone for housing and utility assistance. Rental assistance requests have increased dramatically, with over 100 coming in this week alone, and few resources to put toward this need. As layoffs continue and wages decrease, we expect our requests to grow substantially over the coming month. Network is also covering the gaps in service caused by the closing of two other local food pantries, which is placing an extra burden on our resources, (both human and financial).

    Our Needs : Volunteers are our largest need right now , with only half the normal number of volunteers available to us to handle an increased workload. We must expand this capacity to continue to meet the demand for our services.  Persons interested in volunteering can sign up for a shift through our online “sign-up genius” .

    Financial resources: Network continues to incur additional expenses for packing and cleaning supplies, temporary staff, portable storage units, and direct housing assistance provided to our clients. Your financial support will help us with these extra costs.

    Food Donations: We can use:  Bread, sugar, oil, frozen chicken, beef and turkey, dairy products, canned meals, fresh produce, diapers/wipes, baby food, feminine products, packing tape, shrink wrap. Please drop donations at the rear of our building at the food pantry loading dock.

    As a community, we will come together to help our neighbors meet this challenge, as we have helped them before. I thank you for standing by us in this effort and supporting our important work. I wish you and your family good health and continued patience during this

    Best Regards,

    Cindy Shafer
    President and CEO

    P.S. Please share this message with your family and friends. We’re all in this together.

    MARCH 26, 2020
    MARCH 19, 2020
    MARCH 19, 2020

    Dear Network Friend

    In an effort to keep you all informed regarding Network’s response and growing needs during the COVID-19 crisis, I am sharing the update below.

    Network’s work has become more important than ever during this crisis, as a large portion of those we serve are losing jobs, having hours cut back, putting off job searches and/or fearing they will be unable to cover basic expenses.

    We continue to respond to these needs with food and utility assistance through a modified distribution model, allowing clients to pick up packaged food orders at our rear loading dock and receive other assistance over the phone. Several neighboring food pantries have closed their doors prompting us to fill the gap by offering their clients assistance with food. Additionally, beginning next week, Network will be partnering with RISD to provide at least 1,000 “weekend food boxes” each Friday to students and their families through a planned distribution on the district’s current school bus routes. We plan to continue this support to families as long as RISD is serving meals on their bus routes.

    In order to provide these extra resources, Network must incur additional expenses. Increased staffing, supplies and other supports are needed over the next few months for us to manage this effort effectively for our neighbors in need. We cannot meet this demand without you.

    Below you will see several opportunities for you and your family to make a difference. I invite you to consider one of the following:

    • Donate cash (click on “Give Hope” button to the right).
    • Donate food – On your own or through a neighborhood food drive.
    • Contribute a “craft kit” to the RISD Food Boxes – Have your children come up with an idea for a “do at home” craft and make a kit to be placed in RISD weekend food boxes.
    • Write “Notes of Encouragement” to include in our food bags and boxes

    Food donations, craft kits and notes of encouragements can be dropped off at our loading dock during our normal business hours (Monday-Thursday 9 am to 5:30 and Friday 9 am to Noon).

    I extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you for standing by Network during challenges like these, and hope that you and your family remain safe and healthy amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

    Best Regards,

    Cindy Shafer
    President and CEO

    P.S. Please share this message with your family and friends. We’re all in this together.

    MARCH 17, 2020
    MARCH 16, 2020
    MARCH 16, 2020

    Dear Friends and Neighbors,

    During this elevated time of concern over COVID-19, please be assured that Network is taking all necessary precautions to keep its environment clean and safe for staff, clients, volunteers, and other visitors. 

    We will continue to carry out our mission while modifying our service delivery methods so that this safety can be maintained.  To that end, I am providing the list below of changes to our services which will be in effect as of Monday, March 16thI will continue to provide updates as they become available.

    • Volunteers will continue to provide food and utilities service to all clients; however, clients will not be entering our building to minimize exposure and decrease the risk of disease transmission. All client food distributions will be picked up from our loading dock. There will be no clothing distribution during this time.
    • All appointments will be made over the phone. Utility assistance & certification appointments will take place over the phone with clients providing required documentation via fax or email.
    • Those who do not have a food appointment will receive an emergency food box containing basic necessities from the back dock. No “Network Dollars” are required.
    • Our Mobile pantry will halt Farmer’s Market style distribution and only distribute pre-packaged food boxes.
    • Educational Auxiliary programs (except GED) that operate on site as well as our clothing closet will be temporarily suspended until further notice.

    Volunteers and financial resources are our top needs.  Many of our more vulnerable volunteers are temporarily on leave from Network during this time.  This shortage, as well as the extra phone work and additional shopping and bagging of food items, calls for more daily volunteers than were previously needed at Network.  In addition, an uptick in Network’s need for hygiene and cleaning supplies, packing boxes, and most importantly food for our pantry (as retailer’s supplies fall) result in additional unanticipated expenditures.  Your support of time and financial resources during this time will be appreciated. 

    Thank you for partnering with us to serve our neighbors in need.  I am deeply grateful for your support and offer wishes of health and well- being for each of you.

    Best Regards,

    Cindy Shafer

    President & CEO

    Menu

    Fork-Off Vip Event – The Appetizer

    Thursday, March 26

    7-10 pm

    Drinks & hors d’oeuvres, culinary entertainment & SWAG will be served!