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Nonprofits move forward under challenging conditions

  • Pam Lorimer delivers groceries to a Peterborough home on behalf of Monadnock At Home on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Pam Lorimer delivers groceries to a Peterborough home on behalf of Monadnock At Home on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/30/2020 4:01:47 PM

The need for nonprofit services is constantly evolving in normal times.

But these are anything but normal times and as the impact felt by the coronavirus pandemic continues to cast a wider net, area agencies are expecting even more calls for assistance.

With so many people out of jobs, small business owners struggling to stay afloat, and the extra requirements that go along with teaching children at home, things like food and fuel assistance, mental health and substance abuse services will be needed more than ever.

The elderly and the medically compromised need more assistance navigating the world, as they look to secure necessities without setting themselves up for possible exposure.

The challenges are far reaching and the pieces of the puzzle are coming together after some swift decisions and even quicker implementation to avoid interruption of highly needed support.

And even when life returns to some semblance of what it was like before COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic, the needs of local residents will continue well beyond that.

River Center

So much of what the River Center does is based on seeing people face to face. For the time being that is no longer an option, so Margaret Nelson, executive director, and her team quickly worked to transition to a model that would allow them to still serve as many people as possible.

Last week, Nelson said they were getting their current groups, like Moms and More, Parents of Teens and Tweens, up and running on Zoom by the end of the week. She added the goal was to announce new groups this week “for anyone who wants to join us during this time.”

“I don’t want to put anyone at risk,” Nelson said. 

But Nelson realizes that not everyone has the ability to join in that fashion for a variety of reasons.

“We are not set up to be able to handle people 100 percent remotely,” she said. “But we’re trying to figure out a way that we can help people. We’re trying to do whatever we can.”

The IRS pushed back the filing date to July 15, which will hopefully allow them to resume the free tax filing program for qualified returners, but does little for those who need that money now and have no other way of filing.

“That doesn’t help the people relying on their refund to pay the rent this month,” Nelson said.

For those that they typically go into the home or meet with at the River Center, there are more check-ins through phone and video calls

“It’s a challenge as it is for everybody,” Nelson said. “We’re working with what we’ve got. Trying to determine what are the gaps.”

Nelson said the topic for this month’s Eastern Monadnock Providers Network, a collection of agencies from all over services map that meet monthly, will be about the coronavirus and whatmore can be done. Because even when this is all over, Nelson knows the needs will be ongoing.

“It’s a challenge all the way around, for all of us,” Nelson said. “So we have to be nimble on our feet so we’re ready to help people.”

For more information about the River Center, visit https://rivercenter.us.

Reality Check

The drug, alcohol and substance abuse services program in Jaffrey quickly moved all aspects of its operations online.

The world of recovery isn’t going to stop as the world around it does, so founder Mary Drew knew they needed to continue their work. It was of the utmost importance.

All of their meetings and support groups are now held on Zoom with login information for alcoholics anonymous, women’s AA and all-recovery found on the Reality Check website.

“A lot of the meetings represent the only social connection many people get,” Drew said. “There’s a lot of isolation that goes along with anxiety and depression and recovery.”

Drew is justifiably worried about what impact the pandemic will have on people’s recovery.

“It can push people to experience setbacks,” Drew said. “And we’re trying to prevent that from increasing.”

At the first AA meeting, there were 15 to 20 people who attended online, which was low compared to the number that would show up in person.

“I think that will change the deeper we get into this,” she said. “But not everybody has computer skills and access to meetings.”

They made the decision to postpone their Recovery Friendly Employer Symposium scheduled for May until November.

Drew said that even though they can’t meet with people in person, there is still a lot of virtual support services available.

Because there’s a drug epidemic going on, and “that just doesn’t stop,” Drew said.

For more information and meeting times, visit www.realitychecknow.org.

Monadnock Developmental Services

For Mary Anne Wissell, director of operations at MDS, some of the decisions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are hard to see happen.

No longer do they support individuals in the workplace or take them to the grocery store, working to ensure their safety and that of the MDS staff. The whole idea behind MDS is to get those living with disabilities out into the community, but a lot of that has been put on hold for the time being.

“This is completely opposite of what our philosophy is,” Wissell said. But she knows it’s the best way MDS can do its part to limit bringing people together.

But for a large percentage of the population the organization serves still need in-person care. That includes residential homes where up to three individuals live and staff provides care around the clock.

“They would not survive without staff support,” Wissell said. “We have to have people in there.”

Updated protocols have been put in place for both the safety of the individuals and staff members, although the policies were already at a high standard as is with any organization that provides healthcare.

And with that, MDS has run into the same challenges as others in the healthcare industry – a shortage of supplies.

“We’re in that same situation where we’re scrambling to find the protective equipment to keep our staff and the people we serve safe,” Wissell said. “So far we’ve been able to make do with what we’ve got.”

And they’ve worked with suppliers to order whatever they can, even going to Amazon “and paying the price, whatever it is to get them.”

“We’re jerry-rigging what we have to have the best thing possible until we can have the best thing,” Wissell said.

Other individuals live with families and for the time being, if possible, those individuals are being cared for by those families.

“We just told them call if you need something,” Wissell said.

They are doing phone check ins, as well Skype, Facetime and Zoom, especially for many of the 600 children they provide services for.

“It’s critical for the well being of the whole family,” Wissell said.

But staffing is an issue for MDS.

“We’re trying to make do with the staff we have, which wasn’t enough to begin with,” she said.

For more, visit www.mds-nh.org.

Monadnock at Home

So much of what Monadnock at Home does is centered around people interacting with each other.

On the first Wednesday of the month Monadnock at Home hosts a monthly program open to their more than 90 members, where seniors get together for social time. There are lunches at local restaurants and other outings, along with information sessions. They provide transportation and help with medical appointments, trips to the grocery store, as well as handyman assistance in the home, companion visits and check-in calls.

And those check-in calls will never be more crucial than right now. With social distancing recommended, there was no way Monadnock at Home could continue offering most of its services or any of its programming.

Through the first few months of the year, executive director Sandra Faber had a network of 25 volunteers she could call in for a multitude of needs. But now the group of volunteers is mostly relegated to calling each member twice a week just to see how they’re doing, how things are going.

“We were perfectly positioned to bring those volunteers together and start checking in with people,” Faber said. “So many people need that, so it’s very important for us.”

Reinforcements have emerged, as 26 new volunteers have signed on.

“Volunteering is on the forefront of people’s minds,” Faber said.

For now, Faber has waved the membership fee and it has led to more members looking for support.

“There’s a lot of other people out there that could use a simple check-in,” Faber said.

Monadnock at Home is still providing grocery deliveries for those not feeling comfortable going out of the house – considering the risk factors associated with the coronavirus and the population they serve.

In an effort to still get people together, Faber said they hosted a conference call last week that included 15 members for about 40 minutes.

“People were laughing and talking about how they’re dealing with things,” she said. The next conference call is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m.

For more about Monadnock at Home, visit www.monadnockathome.org, call (603) 371-0809 or email help@monadnockathome.org.

The Grapevine

Prior to the time where just about everything shut down, Melissa Gallagher, executive director of the Grapevine, and her staff put some contingency plans in place.

There was a real concern out there that the global pandemic was going to impact the state and the region, so Gallagher wanted to make sure there was a solid base for what would be done if they had to close the family and community resource center in Antrim.

Right now they’re just trying to stay connected anyway they can through phone and video calls. They’ve put out information on social media about how people can call if they need help or know of someone who does. There is a large portion of the community that uses the Grapevine for one need or another and Gallagher wants to make sure they continue.

“We’ve just shifted during this time,” Gallagher said. “It really looks vastly different.”

She doesn’t want to see anything fall through the cracks for those families at the greatest risk.

“Especially in a time like this when we’re not able to meet in those traditional ways,” she said.

But she has been overwhelmed with how the shift has taken place so quickly.

“It’s up to all of us to create that support,” Gallagher said. “And so many partners have stepped up so quickly in so many ways.”

And she knows this isn’t a short term impact – for people in need or in terms of funding for the organization.

“We anticipate it may not be as strong in the coming months,” she said.

For more, visit https://grapevinenh.org.


In response to the demands of nonprofits, the Monadnock United Way established the COVID-19 Relief Fund, designed to assist their partners through funding during this time.

The fund was set up on March 17 and as of Monday morning had raised more than $16,000 with checks going out weekly to get the funds quickly into the hands of the people that need them the most.

For more information about the relief fund and a list of agencies and programs receiving funds, visit www.muw.org/covid-19-relief-fund.

On Monday, Catholic Charities New Hampshire announced the creation of the Catholic Charities NH Crisis Fund.

The fund will support immediate needs like emergency financial relief assistance, food assistance for homebound, disabled and isolated seniors, unplanned childcare expenses for essential healthcare staff across Catholic Charites NH’s skilled nursing facilities statewide; and access to teletherapy for uninsured individuals struggling with anxiety, stress and unexpected life changes.

Catholic Charities NH’s goal is to raise $250,000 for the Crisis Fund by April 17. To donate to the Catholic Charities NH Crisis Fund, visit www.cc-nh.org/fund.

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