Be Concerned began as the Christmas Store in 1968, helping low-income families celebrate Christmas and maintain economic stability throughout the year. It has grown into one of the largest free food pantries in Northern Kentucky, relying on volunteers to provide most of the day-to-day service.
A few weeks ago we chatted with Andy Brunsman, Executive Director of Be Concerned about the challenges the organization has faced to continue to assist the needy during this challenging COVID-19 environment.
What are you biggest challenges now during this pandemic?
One of the biggest challenges we've had throughout the pandemic has been changing our pantry models at both our Covington and Erlanger to a car-hop model where we are keeping shoppers in their cars, going over our choice pantry menu with them, and then having a limited number of volunteers pack the order and deliver it directly to the vehicles. We've had to do this on a bare bones corps of staff and volunteers due to so many of our volunteers being seniors. We've sent home well over 95% of our volunteer corps.
We also opened our doors to families in Hamilton County in need of assistance, and have built additional emergency slots for 2 hours Monday-Friday in Covington to help families who have never reached out to us before or are literally out of food when they call us.
The challenge with the model not only came logistically with making the drastic change literally overnight, but also the increased demand we've seen at our sites. In a typical March we would have served about 900 families between our 2 sites. This March that number soared to 1,520. One of the other challenges is that we made the choice to close our thrift stores a week before the formal request went out from the governor. That has led to a loss of $2,000 per week in thrift store revenue which we typically use to purchase the products we need at both our pantry sites.
What else would you like to add?
I am very proud of the safe way Be Concerned is serving families in need while also keeping our staff and volunteers safe in the process. I think it is very important to maintain our choice pantry model where families select the items they truly need instead of simply receiving a box of pre-packed canned goods. We have been able to maintain the most important part of our programs and mission, which is to respect the dignity of the people turning to us for help by making sure they have a choice in the items they receive.
Note from the CBC
A volunteer of Be Concered set up a flower fundraiser to support them. (before the COVID-19 crisis began). Flower orders are due May 1st. Your purchase will be available for pick-up on May 16th at St. Joseph School parking lot in Crescent Springs. Your items will be placed directly in your car to minimize contact and keep things safe. You may order some flowers and support Be Concerned at https://app.fundraiseit.org/shop.php?code=80E90
Be Concerned Inc.
1100 Pike St., Covington, KY 41011