SHARE in Milford gears up for need

‘We are trying to reduce the number of people who enter the building,’ said SHARE Executive Director Christine Janson. ‘Effective March 17, we’ve changed the way we do food pantry.’

MILFORD – Adjusting the volume to the demand, the SHARE Outreach program in Milford is taking necessary steps to keep its agency healthy while meeting the community needs during the current coronavirus crisis.

SHARE Executive Director Christine Janson said they’re doing everything possible to keep the building a safe and healthy environment, which includes having any visitors wash their hands immediately upon entry to the facility.

“We are trying to reduce the number of people who enter the building, and we are changing the way we do part of our business,” she said. “Effective March 16, the clothing barn was closed. That took out of the equation all of the volunteers and any of those shoppers and any of those donors. Effective Tuesday, March 17, we’ve changed the way we do food pantry.”

Volunteers still are servicing clients, but now the clients come with a filled-out list, and a volunteer representative will meet them at their vehicle, retrieve the list and bring it in. Volunteers are then filling the bags and loading cars, so that SHARE can eliminate anyone entering the building unless absolutely necessary.

SHARE’s financial assistance program, usually done face-to-face, has also shifted to doing things remotely.

“We are going to try to do things either by phone, email, or even faxing documents,” Janson said.

She added that some of the other offices in the building are doing various other things to keep people safe.

“As for Meals on Wheels, they have eliminated the people who come in and eat it here,” Janson said. “But they’ll still be doing their deliveries.”

Janson shared that each day presents new developments.

“It’s like everything else, last Friday we said, we only have the clothing barn open,” she said “And then, by last Saturday morning, it was ‘no.’ Everyday things are changing, and we’re just trying to make people know to check in so you know what to expect when you come here.”

SHARE also reached out to all the area SAUs that they service with regard to the provision of food for kids during the school shutdowns.

“In Milford, they’ve asked us to help and volunteer with the delivery piece of it for kids who have no transportation,” she said. “So, we’re working directly with them on that. That was part of the whole thing, because we have vetted drivers. It’s just for a small percentage of people, as others who can drive will drive to the school to pick up lunches.”

Janson also addressed those who are at high risk, which includes some people who are volunteering their time at SHARE.

“I think that for us, and other agencies like us, we have a lot of people who might fall into that demographic of high risk,” she said. “Whether they’re medically compromised in some way, or because of their age. It’s the same for our volunteers. We have people who are saying ‘I have to step back for now.’ So, we’re trying to juggle all that.”

SHARE’s food pantry is currently well stocked and in, “good shape,” with fresh produce, canned goods and dairy products.

“We are constantly working to increase the stock in our pantry,” Janson said. “And while the pantry is stocked well, we actually do purchase a bit of food each week, so we’re working to make sure that it is ramped up so that if we see an increase, and I’m confident that we will, we’ll be able to handle it.”

For folks that want to make a donation to SHARE, there are a number of ways that the community can help.

“People are asking me do you want money or goods. At this point, I want toilet paper,” she said. (The pantry is actually stocked with rolls of toilet paper at this time.)

Right now, it’s harder for us to go out and purchase stuff. If folks want to go out and shop or they want to take stuff out of their own pantry, that’s just as good as a cash donation. There has been a bit on Facebook, stating that people need to step up and help these kinds of organizations.”

SAU 39 in Amherst did an in-service day on March 16, preparing teachers for the remote learning aspect of day-to-day teaching during the school closures.

“Larry Ballard, who is the head of the union there, coordinated a food drive there for us,” Janson said. “People are cognizant of the fact that there are those who will need stuff. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we can keep enough stock so people can get what they need.”

Janson said the agency also is ensuring that they have gift cards on hand for grocery stores and gas.

“That will make it easy for people who can’t utilize the pantry or need something special that we can’t provide in there,” she stated.

As for facing this difficult time and the ultimate test, Janson said, “You know, I said to someone, ‘We survived the crash of 2008. I feel like we’ll survive this one.'”