OAKLAND, Calif. - Unlike years past, Covid has made it much more difficult to help those most in need this holiday season.
With Thanksgiving just days away, one charitable organization had to make a major push to get help, so it could give help.
This year, both families and organizations are being forced to make changes to cope with COVID.
“What Thanksgiving? You know.” That was a bit of sarcasm from Dmitry Yebdayed as he laments the changes COVID-19 is foisting upon Thanksgiving. “Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to be getting together, especially with all the spikes lately and what’s going on."
Sarah Davis-Mabunulo says Covid is forcing her family to stay home rather than travel.
“We’re staying put, there’s going to be a small, very intimate, just my husband and son, and my sister.”
Families aren’t the only ones adapting this year, so are charities like San Francisco’s Salvation Army, which will be serving 4,800 meals for Thanksgiving.
Even though the need is greater, they had to cap that number, which is about a thousand more than usual.
Last year there were plenty of volunteers to help, but this year became challenging when they couldn’t attract enough volunteer delivery drivers.
“Usually the week before Thanksgiving we're turning volunteers away saying, ‘hey we're full. We don't need any more volunteers,’ which is wonderful,” said Salvation Army Major Matthew Madsen. “Well, a week before Thanksgiving we were down, we were down severely. I think it was about 85 drivers we needed.”
An aggressive last-minute social media blitz helped fill the need.
Then there was the caterer that canceled because of COVID.
“About 10 days before Thanksgiving they notified us and said ‘hey we can't provide the meals for Thanksgiving. We're shutting our doors,’” said Madsen. “It just, my heart stopped and I thought ‘we have thousands of people that won't be able to eat.’”
The charity successfully scrambled and found a replacement.
They are facing more challenges heading into Christmas, like a 35% decline in those famous red kettle donation sites.
But you can give online or at a physical kettle location using socially-distant technology.
“We’ve got virtual giving. You can use Apple Pay or Google pay.”
The charity says business donation sites have also declined from about 250 to less than ten since many offices have closed temporarily, or for good.
So, the Salvation Army is being forced to be cunning and creative to beat Covid this holiday season.
“We're trying to do the best we can considering the circumstances.”
Even though the Thanksgiving challenges have been solved, Christmas challenges lie ahead.
The charity is anticipating the possibility of toy donations being down 50% because they don’t have nearly enough drop off locations, but they expect the need will increase by 50%.