Typically held on the Tuesday after Black Friday in November, the global day of generosity and unity has been reset to occur now, as a way to come together and give back in response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19, recognizing that local nonprofits and human services agencies are in need of additional support right now during this public health crisis.
“We always have a compelling story to tell about the work we do,” says Kathryn C. Burns, MHA, Chief Executive Officer at GLSS. “And the story right now is that many programs are seeing an uptick in needs with no funding stream to support that.” Not surprisingly, the agency has seen a surge of new people seeking home-delivered meals and other food resources. “Many GLSS programs—especially some of our unique, innovative ones—meet a critical need but receive little or no state or federal funding, which essentially means they rely on foundation grants and private donations,” Burns says. She cited some of the agency’s award-winning clinical and counseling programs as examples, one addressing domestic and family violence issues and a counseling program that provides support to isolated people who are not currently in treatment. “These programs are needed more than ever right now,” she adds.
The Mobile Mental Health Program offers a “wrap-around” service approach, providing counseling as well as connecting vulnerable, already isolated elders to other services to meet basic needs. “We work with elders already managing many mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and grief and loss issues,” reports Meredith Anderton, LICSW, one of the program’s counselors. “The fear caused by the pandemic has really exacerbated these emotional challenges, and we are seeing an increase in people feeling the debilitating effects of ongoing isolation.” The program has transitioned to a telehealth approach and continues to provide support, assessment, and counseling to some of the community’s frailest individuals.
Many of the program’s consumers have requested increased contact during this time, so staff report they are working harder than ever to meet the need. “In one case, a client who requires a special diet found herself without any resources for obtaining food, and I was able to help her problem-solve the situation, bringing in GLSS’ Nutrition Department to help,” says Lynn O’Neal, LMHC, another counselor in the Mobile Mental Health Program. The client has since described the intervention as ‘life saving.” For many, interaction with their counselor is their only contact with another human being and life outside of their homes. “Another client told me, ‘I really appreciate you calling me and trying to help me. You're the only human contact I've had in weeks’," O’Neal added.
Other consumer needs that fall outside of GLSS’ budget limitations are often met by the Lique Living Legacy Fund, an emergency fund for low-income consumers named in memory of the agency’s long-time Executive Director, Vince Lique. It is often used to purchase things like furniture, medical equipment, and air conditioners or needed food and other supplies for people who are transitioning from homelessness to housing or from one living situation to another. “I had a consumer who needed to move to a new apartment due to plumbing issues,” says Marge DiVirgilio, LSW, a Senior Program Manager. “There was no one to help, but GLSS stepped in to provide a new mattress and bed, which were needed due to bed-bug issues.”
“We are so fortunate to have this resource, so we can help people experiencing emergencies in their lives—the kinds of unexpected things that happen in everyone’s life but that have an especially devastating impact on low-income people,” Burns stated. “And it is only possible, thanks to people in the community.” A COVID-19 Emergency Fund has also been established, which will be used to purchase supplies like masks and other personal protective equipment for GLSS’ front-line workers, like drivers providing critical transportation services or delivering Meals on Wheels and Protective Services case workers, the “boots on the ground” protecting the safety of vulnerable elders, some of whom are homeless.
GLSS is planning a campaign for the coming week to focus on how staff make a difference every day, especially right now. “You don’t have to wait until May 5 to show your appreciation to our staff for their tremendous contribution to keeping older people and adults living with disabilities safe and connected during this unprecedented time,” Burns notes. To find out how you can help, visit www.facebook/glss.net or www.glss.net.