Services for seniors, children, the homeless and hungry are continuing in Raleigh County during the global COVID-19 pandemic, but agencies have made modifications in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

"We are working from home and altering schedules as much as possible," Raleigh County Community Action Association Executive Director Ron Cantley said Monday. "By the same token, you can't call off dialysis.

"You don't want to call off feeding children. You can't call off housing, and you can't call off shelter."

RCCAA operates or provides support for Raleigh County Head Start, Pine Haven Homeless Shelter in Beckley, transportation, Dial-a-Ride, low income energy assistance programs, RCCAA Housing Department, Welfare to Work, Family Educational Services, public transit and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Pine Haven Homeless Shelter in Beckley was providing shelter and services for 60 residents on Monday, including about 24 adults who are age 65 or older and a 7-year-old child, shelter director Mike Horn said.

A local elementary school principal has arranged for the child's schoolwork to be delivered to the shelter, a shelter worker reported. 

With the COVID-19 threat, Horn said Pine Haven requires anyone with a fever to visit a doctor. Cantley said that Pine Haven is working with Raleigh County Health Department for guidance on community health issues.

Gov. Jim Justice on Monday issued a stay-at-home order for West Virginians, requiring only essential workers to report to work, barring most businesses and large gatherings, including church, requiring restaurants to serve only delivery or curbside and asking state residents to stay inside of their homes, except for essential travel. Essential travel includes the grocery store, pharmacy or doctor's office.

At Pine Haven, residents share a living space.

"It's the same risk, to some extent, that a hospital has, in that it's a communal environment," Cantley noted. "Our advantage is that sick people don't come to us, on purpose."

Pine Haven residents will be required to honor the stay-at-home order, Cantley said.

"We will help them, if they have needs. We're asking them to stay put," he said. "If they're not cooperative, though, with our guidance, they won't be able to stay here."

Cantley said other RCCAA services have been impacted by the COVID-19 threat.

He reported that transportation services is providing "essential travel" only, using the definition of essential that the Governor's Office uses, including work, the grocery store, pharmacies and health care appointments.

The RCCAA Housing Department is maintaining its current client base, but staff members are working from home. No new clients are currently being accepted, he reported.

RCCAA is delivering food and curricula materials to Head Start clients and contacting parents to facilitate health and wellness, he said.

"The food delivery will be maintained as long as we have capacity," Cantley said. "So far, the supply chain has been good, though."

Cantley asked residents who are not in need to donate large canned goods and dry food items or to make a financial donation to Pine Haven Homeless Shelter.

Horn said Pine Haven has about two weeks of uninterrupted meals left for residents.

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The Carpenter's Corner, a feeding ministry on Prince Street, usually offers a free sit-down lunch to anyone who needs a meal, six days a week.

Scott Lawson, president of The Carpenter's Corner board of directors, said Monday that the ministry is now offering take-out lunches that can be sent home with the residents in Styrofoam trays.

"We're giving folks a take-out box with a hot meal, and we're not doing drinks," he said. "We're not doing seconds.

"If you eat in the dining room, under normal circumstances, you can usually get seconds, sometimes thirds, but that's the new normal for everybody, at this point."

Special concerns at The Carpenter's Corner, which Lawson said served 112 people on Monday, are volunteers and a shrinking pantry.

Many of The Carpenter's Corner volunteers are over age 60, and some are choosing to stay inside their homes during the COVID-19 threat. Older people are at a higher risk of getting seriously ill if they contract the disease.

"There are a lot of older and retired people that come in and cook and serve," he said. "We have days where we do not open because of a lot of those folks are a little bit afraid to get out.

"They're in higher risk of getting something," he said. "So there may be some days where we do not open, but, at this point, we're doing our best to try to operate as normally as possible."

Lawson reported that food is needed.

"People are hoarding food, and, if you've been to the grocery store, you've seen it," he said. "It's hard to get certain things.

"And then, some of our food donations are going down a bit, as well. 

"Sam's (Club) is one of our big contributors, and because they have been just overrun, they don't have as much stuff," he said. "We get a lot of stuff that is not out of date but it is getting ready to go out of date, so it's been a little bit less of that as well.

"If people want to donate, that would be a blessing to us," he said. 

He said that The Carpenter's Corner is doing take-out meals of sandwiches, chips and hot dogs. 

"The kind of things you can put in a box...and the breads that go along with that, those are good things for us right now," he said.

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