(Editor’s Note: Starting today, Thanksgiving Day, and running through Christmas Day, the Capital-Star will highlight the work of volunteer groups and nonprofit organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania who are making a difference in their communities. These stories come to you in partnership with The Uniontown Herald-Standard, and are reprinted by permission)
By Alyssa Choiniere
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — With regular volunteers staying home due to health concerns, Salvation Army Captains Erin Rischawy and Danielle Hopping make and serve lunch every day for people in their southwestern Pennsylvania community who are in need.
“We are in desperate need of volunteers,” Rischawy said. “We need people on a regular basis, in the soup kitchen especially.”
Rischawy said most of their volunteers were older and fear contracting COVID-19. In turn, the restrictions have thwarted their efforts to serve holistically in the community.
Both women recently transferred to the West Fayette Street post here from out of state. The daily meals – before the pandemic – provided a way for staff and volunteers to get to know the people they served, learn their needs and direct them to needed services. Now, the restrictions require them to serve meals to-go instead of serving them lunch in the cafeteria.
“It’s been challenging getting to know everyone. There’s no blueprint for how this works during a pandemic,” Hopping said.
- HOW TO HELP: Clothing donations can be dropped off at the Salvation Army Family Store at 54 North Mount Vernon Ave., Uniontown. Food and monetary donations can be dropped off at 32 West Fayette Street, Uniontown, Online donations can be made here. To volunteer, call 724-437-2031.
Rischawy noted many of their daily lunch guests are from the City Mission – Living Stones. Due to the shelter’s regulations for cleaning, the people staying in the shelter must leave during the day. Rischawy said many people pick up their lunches and stay outside the Salvation Army building because they have nowhere else to go. She is especially concerned as winter approaches.
Turkeys are in the oven at the Uniontown Salvation Army Nov. 19 as staff members prepare their daily lunch for community members in need (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)”I’m worried about these people who used this place kind of as a respite,” she said.
They also are lacking in funding, she said, with their annual Turkey Trot cancelled due to the coronavirus. It typically brought in about $8,000, she said.
She noted many businesses are also struggling financially, and have fewer funds to donate. Some businesses and churches are sending volunteers to collect donations with the red kettle campaign, which Rischway said is a huge help to the organization.
“By standing there, you are helping your community. You are the hands and feet of Jesus in the community because you’re helping to raise funds,” she said.
Even sharing a Facebook post can help the Salvation Army, she said. They sometimes post on social media about specific needs, which are quickly met after people share their posts to others in the community.
Alyssa Choiniere is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Readers may email her at [email protected]