Pittsburgh’s nonprofits have consistently risen to COVID-19’s challenges by finding new and innovative ways to safely serve the community. Thanks to its persistent and creative leadership and volunteers, North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) continues to support local families through the pandemic.
“At first, we were a little worried about how we were going to continue,” Director of Development Erica Cochran admits, “but we’ve been consistently surprised by our staff and volunteers.”
These dedicated staff members and volunteers ensure the families in their community continue to safely receive NHCO’s services.
Under the guidance of Cochran and the rest of the leadership team at NHCO, the organization has evolved its services in recent months. By putting safety first, North Hills Community Outreach continues to serve people in need.
After COVID-19 hit in March, NHCO saw a 200% increase in the number of families who relied on the food pantry.
“We were scrambling for food,” Cochran says, “but the community responded positively.”
Thanks to the extra donations, NHCO kept its doors open to continue feeding locals.
To keep food pantry visitors and volunteers safe, NHCO transitioned its shopping pantry (one where visits can browse) to a walkthrough/drive-through pantry. This switch has dramatically reduced the amount of time visitors spend on-site, creating fewer opportunities for disease and germs to spread.
While demand has increased, NHCO continues to offer fresh fruit and vegetables for anyone who stops by. “What’s really great is that we have continued to provide fresh, organic produce from our garden in Bellevue,” Cochran says. “Our gardening coordinator anticipated an increased need in demand, so they were able to make adjustments.”
One of NHCO’s cornerstones is its outreach for the older generations. “Many of the seniors use our services for social interaction,” Cochran explains. Since seniors are more susceptible to the virus, NHCO had to find a new way to continue its outreach. Volunteers have relied heavily on Skype and video calls to remain in contact with the seniors, but much of the outreach has been conducted on the phone.
Because NHCO has historically provided home checks for seniors to ensure their safety, the organization had to evolve once again to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Seniors and volunteers who feel mutually comfortable with home visits have worn masks and practiced social distancing to continue meeting on a regular basis.
Unemployment rates have tripled in Allegheny County, so NHCO’s employment services have been especially important. By partnering with WorkAble, North Hills Community Outreach can provide unemployed adults with access to training for resume writing, job searching, interview skills, and more. WorkAble career counselors work with individuals over the phone or through video calls to lend as much support as possible.
By getting community members back into the workforce, NHCO helps to connect employers with a steady stream of employees while driving down the region’s unemployment rate.
If you or someone you know is struggling, Cochran encourages reaching out to North Hills Community Outreach for support. Even if someone doesn’t qualify, NHCO may be able to refer them to another agency in the region.
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