The Falmouth Service Center has successfully redesigned its operation to maintain services to the Falmouth community and beyond during the pandemic.
“Since the pandemic started we’ve redesigned everything. We’ve moved all food distribution outside of the building,” executive director Kerin S. Delaney of West Falmouth said.
The major change is the way households pick up food.
“In January we moved from a drive-thru pickup, where we prepacked bags, to a client choice method where every Monday on our website you can find our shopping list and check off what you want, and then we bring the food out. That way we can keep everybody safe,” Ms. Delaney said.
“We’ve redesigned the layout of the warehouse so that it’s in the order of the grocery list, and volunteers fill the bags and bring the food out,” she said. “Clients love this new method, because with the prepack they were sometimes getting things they didn’t want, but that was the only way to do it during the pandemic. But now we can bring a few more volunteers into the building.”
Through its partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank, the service center has also been able to switch up the items each week. Recently it was able to offer olive oil, which it does not usually carry, as well as more choices of meats. All have been well received by clients.
Another change is the number of households it is serving from different communities.
“We’ve serviced households as far away as Rochester and Fall River down to Harwich,” Ms. Delaney said. “We’re seeing a lot more different ZIP codes that are coming in and learning about what we’re doing.”
At this time the service center is open to anyone in need of food, with no documentation necessary. If the household needs food, household members are encouraged to come to the weekly food distribution.
Financial assistance programs for Falmouth residents have also continued throughout the pandemic.
“We’ve had a huge amount of rent requests and a lot of utility requests. About 85 percent of our requests are for those two items,” Ms. Delaney said.
The service center has also continued to serve Joint Base Cape Cod with prepacked bags of food at its mobile market.
“That had to be tweaked to stay outside, but it’s been running the entire time and very much appreciated out at the base,” Ms. Delaney said.
It has also continued its special holiday programs, like Thanksgiving and holiday toys, and right now is gearing up for its back-to-school program.
“So we’ve continued to run three-quarters of our programs even during the pandemic,” Ms. Delaney said, “with a lot of tweaking.”
Hand in hand, the service center’s thrift shop, has been open since last July and is accepting donations.
“With proper safety protocols and social distancing, we’ve been able to keep open at both locations,” Ms. Delaney said.
Cooking for home delivery clients has also continued throughout the pandemic, as “each client gets two meals twice a month.”
“We’ve also partnered with the senior center since the very beginning of the pandemic,” Ms. Delaney said. “They’re picking up meals for a lot of seniors in town. Now a lot of the seniors are vaccinated, so they are making their way back here, and we’ll be transitioning away from that home delivery component.”
The service center also has vocational monies available through a Community Block Grant and is working with the Falmouth Economic Development & Industrial Corporation to assist people who are trying to advance their careers in the healthcare field. Monies are available for Falmouth residents who may want to take courses to transition, for example, from “being a home health aide to a certified nursing assistant,” Ms. Delaney said.
Other community-based programs like Falmouth Eats Together and Fresh Markets, which involve other organizations like those in the faith community and the schools, will not be able to reopen this year.
“We don’t anticipate that those programs are going to even remotely be able to reopen until 2022. It’s hard to imagine bringing 150 people into a building before then,” Ms. Delaney said.
The service center has had about 250 of its 600 volunteers actively involved during the pandemic, but “now that more people have been vaccinated, we’re getting a lot more requests from people saying they want to come back,” she said.
“Those volunteers were amazing. We had so many guidelines to be able to operate safely, and all of them followed every safety protocol; they all were incredibly dedicated to make sure that we could stay up and running and not have to close the doors.”
“Everybody has been so devoted to what we’re doing; we could not have done it if the volunteers hadn’t been willing to step up and come in during the pandemic.”
“We all felt like we were rowing the boat in the same direction, because everybody wanted us to stay open, so everybody followed the safety protocols and people felt comfortable about coming in because we were so emphatic about following them.”
Support from the Falmouth community has been overwhelming throughout the year.
“In other places nationwide you saw long lines of people trying to get into pantries, and here the only long line we ever had was on Thanksgiving, and that was from donors trying to come and drop things off,” Ms. Delaney said.
“The support we’ve had from the greater Falmouth community has been nothing short of astounding. We have had so many people reach out and say, ‘How can we help? I want to support this.’ We are just in awe of this community.”